Retail giant Walmart will open nine additional covid-19 drive-thru testing locations at stores across Pennsylvania this week, most of them in Western Pennsylvania, state health officials announced Monday.
But one health expert is concerned those sites will do little to help control the outbreak.
“It is an important goal to increase the amount of testing,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, a Pittsburgh-based fellow with the Infectious Diseases Society of America. “What we really want to increase is the amount of actionable testing.”
Actionable tests are those with quick turnaround times for results, which can help contact tracers with their investigations and prompt people to quarantine.
“If those tests that are being done at Walmart, if they’re coming back in seven days or eight days, there’s really no reason to even be doing that test,” Adalja said. “When you do set up these testing sites, you have to make sure that you’re not doing it just to check a box that you’re doing enough testing. … The importance is not just the sheer number of tests. It’s how many tests you’re doing that are actionable.”
Laboratory company Quest Diagnostics is partnering with the state to process the tests, which are self-administered nasal swabs.
The new testing sites will open Wednesday and test up to 50 people per day per site. There will be no testing in stores.
“We appreciate the hard work done by health systems, pharmacies, federally qualified health centers, medical clinics and other entities that are providing testing for covid-19 across Pennsylvania,” said Dr. Rachel Levine, Pennsylvania’s secretary of Health. “When we established our testing strategy, we wanted testing to be accessible, available and adaptable, and we are working to meet that challenge.”
“As the pandemic continues, it is imperative that we shift testing sites to communities with increasing demand. If the need for testing in additional communities arises, we will reevaluate our site locations,” Levine said.
The average turnaround time for a test result is a week or more, the result of an increase in testing demands and restrictions on testing supplies, Quest previously told the Tribune-Review.
Results will be delivered by email. If a patient tests positive, they will receive a phone call from a doctor.
“Persistent high demand has strained our testing capacity and extended delays for test results. As a result, our average turnaround time for reporting test results is now over two days for our priority 1 patients and seven days for all other patients,” Quest said in a statement. “We expect that as our capacity continues to grow, we will be able to return to average turnaround times in the range of one day for priority 1 patients and three days for most other patients. We have steadily added capacity since we began to provide services in early March, but it will take time to add more.”
Adalja said easy accessibility to tests also can factor into delays in test results. He said it’s important to prioritize people who really need to be tested, such as those experiencing covid-19 symptoms.
“There’s lots of people who are getting tested because they just want to get tested or maybe their employer is forcing them to get tested to come back to work,” Adalja said. “I think we have to really think about that. We want to make sure that the people that need to be tested are tested.”
In order to be tested, patients will have to create an account on Quest’s patient portal and answer eligibility questions such as whether the patient is experiencing covid-19 symptoms and how severe they are, and if they have other health conditions.
Patients are required to register one day in advance. Once a patient is registered, they will be notified of a testing site within 50 miles of them, as well as available appointment times. After the patient schedules an appointment, they will receive a voucher they must print and bring with them to the testing site. Tests are free.
These sites will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays:
• Walmart Supercenter pharmacy drive-thru, 2010 Village Center Drive, Frazer
• Walmart Supercenter pharmacy drive-thru, 355 Walmart Drive, Uniontown
• Walmart Supercenter pharmacy drive-thru, 2601 MacArthur Road Relocation, Whitehall
• Walmart Supercenter pharmacy drive-thru, 134 Daniel Kendall Drive, West Brownsville
These sites will be open from 7 to 9 a.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays:
• Walmart Supercenter parking lot, 20245 Route 19, Cranberry Township
• Walmart Supercenter parking lot, 100 Chippewa Town Center, Chippewa Township
• Walmart Supercenter parking lot, 200 Kocher Lane, Elizabethville, Dauphin County
• Walmart Supercenter parking lot, 50 Newberry Parkway, Etters, York County
• Walmart Supercenter parking lot, 1355 E. Lehman St., Lebanon, Lebanon County
Madasyn Lee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Madasyn at 724-226-4702, email@example.com or via Twitter .
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