17848 DOH Testing Lab

Pennsylvania Commonwealth microbiologist Kerry Pollard performs a manual extraction of the coronavirus inside the extraction lab at the Pennsylvania Department of Health Bureau of Laboratories on Friday, March 6, 2020.

Coronavirus continues to spread in Pennsylvania and the United States, and as state Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said, having reliable information about the disease is crucial.

Included in this story is information about the disease itself, tips on how to prepare, and how to seek medical attention if you aren't feeling well.

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How to stay informed

Local data

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Pennsylvania Department of Health

World Health Organization

How to Prepare

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a guide with sections for before, during and after an outbreak, and will be updated.

Here is what the CDC suggests in a “before an outbreak” checklist:

  • Talk with the people who need to be included in your plan.
  • Plan ways to care for those who might be at greater risk for serious complications.
  • Get to know your neighbors.
  • Identify aid organizations in your community.
  • Create an emergency contact list.
  • Practice everyday preventive actions now.
  • Choose a room in your home that can be used to separate sick household members from those who are healthy.
  • Learn about the emergency operations plan at your child’s school or childcare facility.
  • Learn about your employer’s emergency operations plan.

Medical Costs

All major health insurers in Pennsylvania have agreed to cover "medically appropriate" COVID-19 testing and treatment.

The 10 insurers are:

Anyone with questions about their insurance policy is encouraged to contact the insurer or the state insurance department with questions; the department has a hotline at (877) 881-6388 and has posted Frequently Asked Questions on insurance coverage of the testing.

Getting health insurance

There are several ways Pennsylvania residents who are laid off or experience other life changes because of COVID-19 may be able to get health insurance, according to the state departments of insurance and human services

The options fall into three main categories: Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, aka CHIP; healthcare.gov; and COBRA.

Medicaid and CHIP enrollment is always open, and applications for both are available at www.compass.state.pa.us. Medicaid has income limits, but all children qualify for coverage through CHIP, officials said.

The normal enrollment period for healthcare.gov is past, but life changes including losing health insurance provided by an employer can trigger a special enrollment period, which has a time limit.

More information is here.

How to get remote medical attention

Health officials urge people who have symptoms to stay home and contact their doctor remotely rather than opting for an in-person visit.

All major health systems in Lancaster County offer some form of virtual visits. Some insurers do, too. People interested in a specific virtual visit should check to see what illnesses it can be used for, and whether or not their insurance covers it.

Here’s an overview of virtual visit services offered to local residents.

Capital BlueCross - Virtual Care does visits through video chat on an app for members. It tackles medical services for common illnesses, counseling and psychiatric services and nutritional counseling.

Highmark - The insurer said many of its plans “offer members a virtual clinical visit service,” but didn’t specify which.

Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health - Penn Medicine OnDemand is “virtual urgent care” for minor illnesses and injuries in Penn Medicine patients age 14 and up via video through the MyLGHealth app. Lancaster General also has E-visits for certain conditions through email and sometimes phone, for patients who have visited an office recently.

UPMC Pinnacle - Video visits for follow-up appointments or flu symptoms are available through the MyPinnacleHealth patient portal via MyChart app for adults who have an established relationship with a UPMC Pinnacle physician or advanced practice provider. E-visits for patients age 14 and older who have an established relationship with a UPMC Pinnacle primary care provider involve completing an online questionnaire to receive a treatment plan.

WellSpan Health - WellSpan Online Urgent Care offers a video visits with Teladoc physicians for patients 3 months and older with certain conditions.


For more COVID-19 coverage: