Pennsylvania health department urges use of COVID-19 testing sites as new cases rise

Despite an increase in COVID-19 cases, fewer people have gotten tested in recent weeks.

  • Brett Sholtis/Transforming Health

(Harrisburg) —While new COVID-19 cases are on the rise in Pennsylvania, fewer people are getting tested than in previous months.
State data show from March 29 to April 4, an average of 4,000 people tested positive for the virus each day.

This is a 70% increase from a month ago, when the rate of new cases stopped declining and began to rise.

Despite the increase, the number of people getting tested has decreased, said Department of Health COVID-19 senior advisor Lindsey Mauldin.

“We also know that testing is the most effective way to identify and contain the virus,” said Mauldin. “That is why the department has invested so much time and energy in making testing widely available to anyone who wants it.”

Mauldin said the testing process remains quick and easy, with hundreds of sites set up around the state. The state is continuing a contract with AMI Expeditionary Healthcare to provide “pop-up” testing sites around the commonwealth. There are also continuing initiatives to test college students and children at schools, she noted.

The number of people in the hospital with the virus is also on the rise, state data show. As of Monday, 1,952 people were hospitalized with the virus in Pennsylvania.

That’s slightly fewer than were hospitalized one month ago. However, at that time the hospitalization numbers were declining each day. That trend reversed in mid-March, and cases have increased 30% since then.

The increase in cases and hospitalizations is in part being fueled by more infectious mutations of the virus, public health officials say. That includes the B117 “UK” variant that has been identified across Pennsylvania and the U.S. and is now making up the majority of new cases.

On the vaccination front, Pennsylvania is now in phase 1b of its rollout, making doses available to more groups of people. The state is getting more than 442,000 vaccine doses this week — the greatest weekly allocation so far, Mauldin said.

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