The Lancaster County commissioners approved the restart of a community COVID-19 testing operation as hospitalizations in the county have soared.
The board on Wednesday approved an agreement with Lancaster General Health to conduct COVID-19 testing at the Lancaster County Public Safety Training Center on Champ Boulevard, off the Salunga exit of Route 283, in East Hempfield Township.
The testing location is one of the few actions in recent months taken by the county government to address the increasing spread of COVID-19 in the community. The number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized in the county reached 228 on Monday. That was 18% higher than a week earlier, and three times the number of patients in November.
Under the agreement with LGH, drive-through PCR testing will be conducted Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the East Hempfield Township training center.
Appointments will be required, at least in the first few weeks of its operation, the health system’s top physician said. Patients will not be required to obtain an order for a COVID-19 test from their primary care physician prior to scheduling a test, but they should only schedule a test if they are symptomatic.
Anyone ages 3 and up is eligible for testing at this site. For those with health insurance, the cost of their test will be billed to their insurance. For those without health insurance, they may be eligible to have the cost of their test — each of which costs $57.24 — covered by federal COVID-19 relief. Appointments can be scheduled starting on Thursday via the MyLGHealth mobile app and website, or by calling centralized scheduling at 717-588-1515. Testing will begin on Friday.
The site will have the capacity to conduct several hundred tests each day, said Dr. Michael Ripchinski, the chief clinical officer at Lancaster General Health.
LGH operated a community testing facility at the same site in early 2021, and will be “taking the playbook off the shelf” to do so again for the next month and a half, Ripchinski said.
The public safety training center has multiple garages for emergency vehicles. Because of the large space available, patients will be able to drive into a garage and receive a test without leaving their vehicle. The garages also allow staff to remain inside during the winter months.
“I can’t put people out in (testing) tents in January. We’re not doing it,” Ripchinski said.
The testing site will not be open Monday, the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, nor will it be open on Presidents Day, Feb. 21.
The agreement with the county calls for operating the center for six weeks and includes language to allow an extension if needed. LGH will work with TriStarr Staffing to work at the community testing site, as was done to staff the county’s vaccination center at Park City Center last spring. LGH is partnering with the county’s three other health systems: UPMC, Penn State and WellSpan Health.
On average, of every two tests of symptomatic patients, one patient is testing positive in Lancaster County, Ripchinski said.
“We’re seeing 1,100 cases per day,” Ripchinski said after the commissioners’ work session on Tuesday. “It’s definitely increasing, and I worry about people having access to tests.”
“It’s something I hear quite often, quite frankly, from residents… ‘I can’t get a test,’” county Commissioner Ray D’Agostino said during Tuesday’s meeting. “As we’ve seen in the past, as state and federal governments fail, a public-private partnership steps up here in Lancaster County.”