Pa. COVID-19 testing down even as cases increase, state health officials say

By: - April 6, 2021 12:56 pm

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Correction: This story was updated to fix a typographical error. 

The number of COVID-19 tests conducted across the commonwealth has decreased, even as confirmed case counts have continued to rise, state health officials said Tuesday.

In a briefing with reporters, Department of Health Senior Advisor on COVID-19 Response Lindsey Mauldin confirmed that the department has continued to record an uptick in COVID-19 cases across Pennsylvania. 

“We continue to see cases go up on a daily basis,” Mauldin said, adding that the increase in cases was “proof that it’s still in our communities.”

Just four months ago, on Dec. 5, the department recorded 65,022 daily COVID-19 tests. As of Monday, April 5, that number is 34,887, according to Department of Health data. 

The total combined number of tests (PCR and antigen) reported to the department since COVID-19 testing began in the commonwealth is 14,332,122.

Despite the drop in demand for testing, Mauldin told reporters that those who experience COVID-19 symptoms are being tested. 

“We believe that people who are sick are getting tested,” Mauldin said.

Mauldin said the Health Department has led a heavy push for residents to get tested at the beginning of the pandemic, which has since transitioned into vaccine rollout efforts. 

Pa. to open COVID-19 vaccinations to all by April 19

Mauldin told reporters that she believes that the “relaxation” of accountability measures after more than a year of social distancing and mitigation efforts, combined with the department’s gentler stance on testing since the vaccine rollout began, has caused the decrease in demand for testing in Pennsylvania. 

Statewide testing has allowed state health officials to “follow” the virus, Mauldin said, raising concerns that a decrease in testing could limit the department’s ability to effectively track outbreaks. 

“We need people to continue to be vigilant,” Mauldin said. Pennsylvanians should continue to wear masks, practice social distancing, and get tested if they experience symptoms.

Despite the decrease in demand for testing, state health officials said that demand for the COVID-19 vaccines remains high. 

“It’s a good sign that demand for the vaccine remains high here in Pennsylvania,” Mauldin said. 

On Monday, Pennsylvanians in Phase 1B of the state’s vaccination plan became eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines. 

Those individuals included in 1B are: 

  • People in congregate settings not otherwise specified as long-term care facilities, and persons receiving home and community-based services
  • U.S. Postal Service workers
  • Manufacturing workers  
  • Clergy and other essential support for houses of worship 
  • Public transit workers
  • Education workers

Pennsylvanians in Phase 1C will be eligible April 12, with the vaccine becoming available to all state residents on April 19. 

Mauldin told reporters that the Biden administration “wants to have people vaccinated by the end of the month,” citing a new directive issued Tuesday that would move up the deadline for states to make vaccines available to the public from May 1 to April 19, corresponding with Pennsylvania’s vaccination timeline.

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Cassie Miller
Cassie Miller

A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry.