Free COVID-19 testing is coming to a pharmacy near you.
Specifically, testing for the virus is coming to the Rite Aid in Hellertown, where it will be available by appointment beginning Sunday, May 10.
The company is expanding testing in its stores throughout Pennsylvania, however the first Lehigh Valley locations to offer it are in Hellertown and Fogelsville.
The testing at Rite Aid is being offered through a partnership with a company called Verily, as part of a program developed in collaboration with the California Department of Public Health’s (CDPH) COVID-19 testing program, with input from federal agencies.
Testing is only available to individuals 18 or older, who are able to get to testing sites and who match eligibility criteria.
According to an April 28 Rite Aid news release about the testing, it is available to “all individuals 18 and older exhibiting any of the following symptoms: fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat (or) new loss of taste or smell.”
Eligibility is determined by taking an online survey, the results of which may also be shared with public health officials, according to Verily.
Current diagnosis efforts for COVID-19 are primarily focused on symptomatic and/or high risk individuals.
Individuals determined to be eligible for COVID-19 testing under the program will be asked to schedule an appointment at a local facility at which a nasal swab will be administered.
“A trained healthcare professional will guide you through the swabbing process,” the website for Project Baseline states. “The swab collection may be performed using a nasopharyngeal (NP) swab or through a self-collected nasal (posterior nares) swab.”
According to the Rite Aid news release, all of its COVID-19 self-testing sites are drive-up sites which utilize self-swab nasal tests overseen by Rite Aid pharmacists.
“Testing sites are located in store parking lots, and patients are required to remain in their vehicles from the time they arrive until the time they depart,” the company said, noting that each site “has the capacity to conduct approximately 400 tests daily through online appointments.”
Once a patient sample has been taken, it will be tested by a clinical laboratory to determine if it is either positive or negative for the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV2).
The lab results will be provided directly to the person tested via email, text, phone call or through a web-based application, usually within a few days, according to the information on the Project Baseline program website.
As of Friday there were six Rite Aid stores in Pennsylvania offering testing by appointment from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. That total will expand to 15 with the opening of nine additional testing locations Sunday, and the company said it plans to continue to increase access to testing in a number of other states.
The Hellertown Rite Aid is located at 110 Main St., Hellertown.
To find other Rite Aid locations where testing is or will be available, click here.
To lean more about Project Baseline and access the eligibility questionnaire, click here.
Testing is not recommended for anyone experiencing severe systems that may be related to COVID-19, which may require immediate medical care. Additional information about symptoms of the disease is available from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control website.
Access to testing has been a concern in Pennsylvania, where public health officials have continued to expand the state’s testing infrastructure since the pandemic began in March. However the number of individuals being tested for COVID-19 continues to lag behind New York, New Jersey, Delaware and other Northeastern states that have large coronavirus caseloads.
As of Friday there were 2,390 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Northampton County and 3,140 confirmed cases in Lehigh County. Across both counties, 267 people have now died from COVID-19, according to Pennsylvania Department of Health data.
The health department Friday announced 1,323 new cases of the virus statewide, which brings Pennsylvania’s total number of cases since the pandemic began to 54,238.
Statewide, more than 3,600 people have died from the disease.
The number of new cases is no longer increasing exponentially–as it was in late March and early April–however state officials including Gov. Tom Wolf and health secretary Dr. Rachel Levine are being cautious in loosening restrictions on movement that were enacted in order to help slow the virus’s spread.
On Friday more than two dozen northern Pennsylvania counties moved from a shutdown to a partial reopening under Wolf’s plan for reopening the state.
In an online news conference held at 2 p.m. Friday, Wolf announced that an additional 13 southwestern Pennyslvania counties will move from the red to the yellow phase of his plan on Friday, May 15: Allegheny, Armstrong, Bedford, Blair, Butler, Cambria, Fayette, Fulton, Greene, Indiana, Somerset, Washington and Westmoreland.
That change leaves only Beaver County in western Pennsylvania under the governor’s six week-old stay-at-home order, which Wolf said Friday will not be lifted in south central, southeastern and northeastern Pennsylvania until June 4 at the earliest.
Under the stay-at-home order, most businesses are closed and residents are only permitted to leave home to perform life-sustaining activities such as work at an essential business, shopping for food or picking up medication.