Wolf Administration Provides Testing and Contact Tracing Update
November 18, 2020
Michael Huff, Director of Testing and Contact Tracing for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, presented an update on the commonwealth’s COVID-19 testing and contact tracing efforts, including Pennsylvania’s plans to distribute more than 3.8 million Abbott BinaxNOW antigen rapid tests allocated to the state by the federal government.
These tests, which have been arriving in weekly allotments since October and will continue through the end of December, are being used to test and protect vulnerable populations in Pennsylvania counties demonstrating substantial risk for community spread, prioritizing counties with current outbreaks.
“It is a top priority to ensure that all people in Pennsylvania who need a test will have access to one,” Huff said. “We will continue to closely monitor the number of cases in communities across the commonwealth to ensure that testing sites are situated appropriately in areas with the greatest need.”
Pennsylvania’s testing goals are to ensure testing is accessible, available and adaptable to changing community needs. To achieve this, the commonwealth utilizes existing public health infrastructure to implement the COVID-19 prioritized, tiered approach to comprehensive testing throughout Pennsylvania. This public health network covers the entire commonwealth with over 550 contracted sites and over 400 public health sites. As more testing sites become available, they will be added to the commonwealth’s map of testing sites.
As cases of COVID-19 continue to increase in Pennsylvania, it is essential that Pennsylvanians follow mitigation guidelines and take steps to keep themselves and their families safe, including wearing masks, washing hands regularly and staying home if you feel sick.
Pennsylvania recently put several mitigation efforts in place to stop the spread of COVID-19, including expanding the Secretary of Health’s universal masking order to require mask-wearing both indoors and outdoors if you are with people other than members of your own household. With the exception of daily commuters traveling for work, Pennsylvania also requires anyone entering the commonwealth – including Pennsylvanians returning from travel – to receive a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours prior to entering the commonwealth or to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in Pennsylvania.
“To stop community spread of this virus, Pennsylvanians must comply with mitigation requirements, especially mask-wearing guidelines and travel restrictions,” Huff said. “Our individual actions and decisions will determine the course of this pandemic. And if you do contract the virus, you must follow quarantine guidelines and work with contact tracers. Time is of the essence.”
Identifying contacts of COVID-19 patients and ensuring they do not interact with others is critical to protecting communities from further spread. If communities are unable to effectively isolate patients and ensure contacts can separate themselves from others, rapid community spread of COVID-19 is likely to increase.
Pennsylvania has more than 1600 contact tracers and 150 stakeholder groups who assist with identifying and interviewing people with COVID-19, as well as providing information and support to the contacts of COVID-19 patients.
Currently the commonwealth is prioritizing case investigations to ensure those who are most vulnerable or could lead to greater community spread or outbreaks receive a case investigation first. This prioritization is vital during the current surge in cases. People are urged to answer the call from a case reviewer and to provide as much information as possible. Case reviewers are trained public health professionals with specialized skills and a thorough understanding of the need for patient confidentiality.
Pennsylvania is uniting against COVID. Here are the mitigation measures in place to keep people safe:
|Business, Work, School, Child Care, and Congregate Settings|
The Wolf Administration supports local officials who choose to maintain additional restrictions. The following counties are under additional local guidelines:
The Wolf Administration supports local officials who choose to maintain additional restrictions. Currently Philadelphia has additional local restrictions. Find more information on COVID-19 in Pennsylvania here.