As COVID-19 cases rise in Pennsylvania and across the country, so does the need for testing and contact tracing. Director of Testing and Contact Tracing, Michael Huff, and Special Assistant on Contact Tracing for the Department of Health, Lindsey Mauldin, presented details on testing to date, upcoming expanded testing sites, and a closer look at contact tracing. They were joined by contact tracer Silicia Lomax.
“Thank you to all the individuals who assist with our regional testing, including AMI, the county commissioners, the county EMAs, the Department of Health’s regional staff, and all other county level officials and health care workers who are stepping up to make these testing sites successful,” Dir. Huff said. “Your hard work is appreciated and valued during this pandemic.”
Today, the Department of Health announced the next five counties that will begin testing later this week. They include Clinton, Delaware, Greene, Warren and Wyoming counties. Drive-thru and indoor testing will begin on Dec. 10.
Last week, Governor Tom Wolf and Dir. Huff announced the extension of the Department of Health’s contract with AMI Expeditionary Healthcare (AMI) to provide COVID-19 testing in five regions across Pennsylvania to help contain local spread of COVID-19, ultimately providing testing for 61 counties over 12 weeks.
The testing sites are open to anyone who feels they need a test, including people with no symptoms or no known exposure, although it is important that even people with no symptoms who test positive isolate to stop the spread of COVID-19.
A vital link for ultimately stopping the spread of COVID-19 lies in case investigations and contact tracing. The Department of Health is working to encourage more Pennsylvanians to participate in this process to increase its success.
Lindsey Mauldin offered insight based on her experience spearheading the contact tracing program for the state.
“It is important to emphasize that in order to effectively contact trace, we need Pennsylvanians to participate in the case investigation,” Mauldin said. “If you test positive for COVID-19 and are considered high risk, you will receive a call from a case investigator.”
Mauldin outlines the steps taken when someone tests positive: “A case investigator will try to call you, leave a voicemail, and try again the next day if you are unable to answer the call. You may get a text or letter in the mail. During a case investigation, you will be asked who you came in contact with and where you went while infectious. The information shared and collected here will remain anonymous and the close contacts are not informed of who they came in contact with. Also, if someone has been exposed to COVID, they will hear from a contact tracer who helps to identify needs and be a resource for those who may need other health care or social service supports. A contact tracer will call you to educate, inform and support those who were exposed to an individual diagnosed with COVID-19.”
“In either case,” Mauldin said, “I want to again emphasize the importance of answering the call and answering their questions to the best of your ability. And I want to thank those who have already answered the call – you just might save the life of someone you love, or don’t even know.”
Contact tracer Silicia Lomax provided insight into her role helping Pennsylvanians.
“It’s been an incredibly rewarding experience when people come out of the contact tracing experience feeling more knowledgeable about dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and how to reduce the spread of the disease,” Lomax said. “The contact tracer role throughout the nation is an ever evolving one. We are doing our best to keep up with demand and constantly updated health guidelines as we learn more about the impact of this pandemic, but it’s important to acknowledge that contact tracers’ work in identifying exposures and encouraging quarantine or isolation is important and will continue to play a vital role so that we can truly address this COVID-19 pandemic.”
For the latest information for individuals, families, businesses and schools, visit “Responding to COVID-19” on pa.gov.