Levine: Pa. to partner with WalMart, Quest Diagnostics on COVID-19 testing efforts

    NUTLEY, NJ - FEBRUARY 28: A researcher works in a lab that is developing testing for the COVID-19 coronavirus at Hackensack Meridian Health Center for Discovery and Innovation on February 28, 2020 in Nutley, New Jersey. The facility develops novel therapies for some of the worlds most difficult diseases. At least 53 countries have reported cases of infection. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)

    Pennsylvania is partnering with Walmart and Quest Diagnostics to help with its coronavirus testing efforts in parts of the states with fewer testing sites, state Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said during a press briefing Wednesday. 

    Nineteen free drive-through testing sites will open at Walmart locations in north central and northwestern counties, with the first five sites set to open Friday, Levine said. Tests will be available Monday, Wednesday and Friday between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. Anyone wanting a test has to register a day in advance on Quest’s website. 

    “The Department of Health and the Wolf administration are dedicated to health equity and non-discrimination, so we are removing barriers to testing –including cost –to ensure the accessibility and availability of testing for all Pennsylvania residents,” Levine said. 

    She also announced a state partnership with the Jewish Healthcare Foundation to establish the Southwest PA COVID-19 Contact Tracing Consortium. Levine said the consortium is one of several regional groups that will help the state determine how many contact tracers are needed in each area, and help recruit and train contact tracers to ensure consistency in tracing results.

    Levine added that the Health Department also has been working with Temple University School of Public Health and the Penn State College of Medicine to train medical students to assist with contact tracing.

    The health department announced 511 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the total number of cases in Pennsylvania since March 6 to 73,405, with 5,742 deaths. Levine said as counties across the state begin the process of relaxing some of the more stringent prevention measures, it is important to remember that “the threat from COVID-19 has not gone away.” 

    Levine said the state will begin issuing scorecards on Friday to help counties assess what thresholds and metrics need to be met before they move into the least restrictive “green” phase of reopening. 

    “We’re going to need to continue to be vigilant about the risk of COVID-19 for the foreseeable future,” she said. “Really, until there is a safe and effective vaccine that can be distributed.”