How to get tested for coronavirus in Pennsylvania: Symptoms, how many cases, who to call and more

By: - March 11, 2020 9:41 am

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. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)

As of Wednesday morning, there are 14 presumptive cases of coronavirus in Pennsylvania, according to the state Department of Health.

If you’re concerned, or think you might need to get tested, here’s what you need to know:

If you’ve been to an area where there is known coronavirus or if you’ve come in contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus, or been to another state where this is known coronavirus, then you should get tested for coronavirus, April Hutcheson, a spokeswoman for the Health Department, told the Capital-Star.

Right now, the Pennsylvania counties that have been impacted by the virus are:

  • Bucks (2)
  • Delaware (1)
  • Monroe (1)
  • Montgomery (8)
  • Philadelphia (1)
  • Wayne (1)

And here’s what you need to do, according to Hutcheson:

“You would call your healthcare provider, they would contact the Department of Health, our public health physicians would consult with them to see if the person should be tested, then we’ll work with the provider to get a sample collected,” she said.

From there, the sample will go off to the lab for further testing, she said, adding that the “issue with testing and specimen collection [is that] personal protection is really important, and that’s why we’re asking for physicians to collaborate with us.”

What to know about insurance:

For uninsured individuals, the tests would are covered at no charge when they are sent to the state lab in Exton. The state is also “exploring options for assisting uninsured people. This is one of many plans being worked on to address financial barriers to testing and treatment,” according to a Wolf administration spokeswoman.

How you can tell if you might have been impacted: Symptoms of coronavirus resemble that of the flu. So if you’re experiencing coughing, fever, difficulty breathing, or shortness of breath, you should consider getting checked out.

How it spreads:

  • “Through the air by coughing or sneezing;
  • Close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands;
  • Touching an object or surface with the virus on it;
  • Occasionally, fecal contamination,” the Health Department said on its website.

How to prevent spreading it:

  • “Cover coughs or sneezes with your elbow. Don’t use your hands
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Clean surfaces frequently, including countertops, light switches, cell phones, remotes, and other frequently touched items.
  • Contain: if you are sick, stay home until you are feeling better,” the Health Department said on its website.

“Right now, we do not have community spread of the virus, whoever has tested positive for the virus, we’ve been able to trace how they’ve contracted it. When we have multiple cases of someone contracting the virus with no known cause we will reach a point of community spread,” Hutcheson said.

The state Health Department has scheduled a 1 p.m. briefing for Wednesday to offer additional information about the virus. The Capital-Star will be staying on top of this developing story.

If you need more information, you can call the Health Department at 877-PA-HEALTH.

Capital-Star reporters Elizabeth Hardison and Stephen Caruso contributed to this story. 

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.