Valley residents experiencing symptoms related to COVID-19 and those who believe they’ve been exposed to the novel coronavirus have options for testing.
Geisinger and Evangelical hospitals maintain testing programs while state-approved sites at Walmarts in Coal Township, Lewisburg and Selinsgrove remain active.
“Over the last 48 hours, Evangelical Community Hospital has seen a sharp increase in the number of people requesting COVID-19 testing,” Deanna Hollenbach, Evangelical’s public relations and communications manager, said July 2.
“Testing results take approximately 48 to 72 hours for return,” Hollenbach noted.
Protocol for testing and the average turnaround for results varies by situation.
Testing at Walmart is appointment-only but doesn’t require a doctor’s referral, according to company protocol. Potential test subjects must meet federal, state and local standards for COVID-19 testing. To obtain an appointment, visit MyQuestCOVIDTest.com and complete an online screening.
Qualifying patients report to a select location at a designated time and conduct a nasal swab test themselves under the supervision of a pharmacist, the company protocol states.
Quest Diagnostics processes tests conducted at the local Walmarts. According to questdiagnostics.com, the company processed 5.75 million tests through June. Next week, it expects to process 115,000 tests daily as it approaches a daily goal of 150,000 tests. That’s because demand is surging, the company said.
As a result, test results are estimated to return in 3 to 5 days. It had been 2 days on average. High priority patients get results in 1 day, according to Quest.
Along with Walmart, Rite Aid and CVS each conduct COVID-19 testing at select sites in Pennsylvania.
Spokespersons for all three firms said doctor referrals aren’t necessary for their respective programs.
However, the latter two firms don’t have test sites designated in the Valley.
Nate Wardle, Pennsylvania Department of Health press secretary, said sites at retail locations were chosen to help serve areas with limited options.
“We want people, if they feel like they need to get tested, to go get tested. We have a lot of capacity for testing now, we have the supplies we need, and locations across the state available to test people,” Wardle said.
Geisinger operates its own lab. To date, across the entire hospital system, Geisinger has had 3,975 tests return positive, 46,748 negative tests and 621 coronavirus patients discharged after hospital treatment, according to information provided by Joe Stender, media relations specialist.
Standard COVID-19 test results return in about 24 hours while rapid testing for those undergoing hospital care return results in 4 to 10 hours, according to Dr. Myra Wilkerson, chair of Geisinger’s Diagnostic Medicine Institute.
“By the end of next week, we would have the ability to do up to 30,000 tests per week,” Wilkerson said.
A physician’s order is necessary to be tested, Wilkerson said.
Since everyone entering Geisinger facilities is screened for symptoms and potential virus exposure, the referral process can begin on-site, according to the hospital website.
“One of the easiest ways to get into the system is to call our nursing hotline” at 570-284-3657, Wilkerson said. “If they think you need to be seen they’ll get you an appointment right away.”
Geisinger also performs antibody tests that show whether someone had the disease. The results are used for potential plasma donors, with donations used in the treatment of COVID-19 patients. Results can also be used in population studies, Wilkerson said. This test doesn’t tell if a person’s immune, she said.
Evangelical Community Hospital recommends anyone experiencing severe illness to report to the Emergency Department and clearly indicate their symptoms and suspicion of COVID-19, according to Hollenbach, the communications manager.
Those with mild symptoms or who are asymptomatic can directly visit Evangelical’s testing site, located across from the hospital behind the Plaza 15 Shopping Center. Hollenbach said they can bring a doctor’s order or arrive without one and be screened on-site for potential testing. The site is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays.
As of 12:30 p.m. Thursday, data provided by Hollenbach showed Evangelical conducted 3,059 tests with 275 returning positive and 288 pending.