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‘Anyone who needs a COVID test can get one’: Pa. to open free testing clinics in 61 counties

As hospitalizations continue to rise — and the fear of overwhelming Pennsylvania’s health care system becomes more real — Gov. Tom Wolf on Tuesday announced plans to expand testing across the commonwealth.

Over the next 12 weeks, Wolf said, the state department of health will deploy five regional strike teams to open coronavirus testing clinics in 61 of the state’s 67 counties.

The sites will be able to test 460 people per day, and tests will be administered for free and available to anyone seeking a test, whether they show COVID-19 symptoms or not, said Michael Huff, the director of testing and contact tracing.

“Our goal is to make it so that anyone who needs a COVID test can get one,” Wolf said during a news conference.

The six counties where strike teams will not open clinics include those that already have their own health departments. That would be Montgomery, Bucks, Chester, Philadelphia, Allegheny and Erie counties.

“We’ve come a long way,”  Wolf said. “From March through May, Pennsylvania health officials performed about 67,000 tests. Now, we are capable of doing that many tests in a single day.”

The first round of free testing will begin on Wednesday in Bedford, Mifflin, Northampton, and Tioga Counties, and a site in Butler County will open Friday.

Wolf also took to Twitter on Tuesday, warning that the commonwealth is on track to run out of intensive care hospital beds amid the most recent spike of COVID-19 patients.

“PA is projected to run out of ICU beds this month,” Wolf wrote on Twitter. “That won’t just affect COVID patients; it will harm anyone who needs life-saving treatment, and will exhaust our health care professionals.”

On Tuesday morning, 4,631 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19 across the commonwealth, and 970 of those patients were in intensive care units, the Department of Health reported. The state’s COVID-19 dashboard indicates that 649 intensive care beds were available, down from the 796 beds reportedly available on Monday.

Pennsylvania reported 5,676 positive coronavirus cases Tuesday, for a statewide total of 367,140 cases. An additional 180 deaths were reported for a total of 10,563 deaths attributed to COVID-19 across the commonwealth.

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