Gov. Wolf Visits Lancaster Health Center to Thank Staff and Provide an Update on Testing and Contact Tracing

July 24, 2020

Governor Tom Wolf today visited Lancaster Health Center, a federally qualified health center, to thank staff for their work to ensure the community’s most vulnerable receive care during COVID-19 and year-round.

“Here at Lancaster Health Center, workers have gone out of their way to reach minority and vulnerable populations,” Gov. Wolf said. “That includes the Latino community through targeted bilingual outreach and advocacy tailored to Hispanic culture. This has been key during this pandemic because it has allowed all Pennsylvanians access to COVID-19 care and testing.”

In addition to thanking center staff, the governor focused on the successes the state is seeing in COVID testing and contact-tracing. The state has already met its testing goal for July and is working to shift testing sites to areas with more need or where there has been a recent increase in cases.

The governor encouraged all Pennsylvanians to get a test if they think they have symptoms of COVID-19 or have been exposed to someone with the virus. A map of testing locations is available on the Department of Health’s website.

Department of Health secretary Dr. Rachel Levine joined the governor and detailed what happens after a person tests positive for COVID.

“When an individual tests positive for COVID-19, the result is reported to the Department of Health and our case investigation begins,” Dr. Rachel Levine said. “We work to begin the investigation within 24 hours of receiving the reported positive case.”

Case investigators work to conduct an interview with persons who test positive to find out:

  • Risk factors and where the person may have been exposed.
  • Demographic and clinical information about the disease status of the individual, including information on age, sex, race, ethnicity, place of residence and how long they have had symptoms.
  • The close contacts of the person. Close contacts are defined as anyone who was within six feet for more than 15 minutes while the person who tested positive was infectious.

“After all of this information is collected, it is put into the department’s disease surveillance system and the work of the contact tracers begins,” Dr. Levine said.

Gov. Wolf and Sec. Levine were joined by Lancaster Health Center representatives, including president and CEO Alisa Jones, chief medical officer Dr. Anne-Marie Derrico and patient care coordinator and RN Nicole Eby De Rodriguez.

“Lancaster Health Center is part of a larger movement of Federally Qualified Health Centers, which are community-based, non-profit organizations that provide comprehensive primary health care to patients in their community,” Alisa Jones said. “FQHCs are created by individuals in a community coming together with a mission to improve access to primary medical care in an underserved area. Every Community Health Center is different, but they all care for patients in a community-oriented, culturally welcoming setting.”

“From the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Lancaster Health Center was prepared to be here with – and for – our community,” Dr. Anne-Marie Derrico said. “We implemented a COVID-19 Response Plan that protects the health and safety of our patients and staff, embraced telehealth as a means to reduce significant health disparities affecting vulnerable patients and community members, opened our doors as the first COVID-19 testing site in Lancaster City, initiated county-wide contact tracing and education to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in our community, and launched a grassroots marketing and social media campaign to reach out to our non-English speaking neighbors who didn’t have a primary healthcare provider.”

“As a registered nurse and patient care coordinator at Lancaster Health Center, I’ve experienced first-hand the importance of making contact calls and COVID-19 follow-up calls to check on the health of our patients who were recovering from home, particularly our Spanish-speaking patients,” said Nicole Eby De Rodriguez.

“As the first health center in Lancaster to begin contact tracing, the concept was unfamiliar to many in our community, especially those receiving the call. I recognized immediately that our grassroots care and warm approach activated familiarity and ease with families, which solidified trust and opened up the conversation, a critical component of contact tracing.”

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