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Free COVID testing at Beltzville draws steady traffic

It was by no means a sea of humanity that typically stretches for miles at Beltzville State Park.

Nonetheless, a solid crowd turned out on Wednesday, only this time, it was to receive free COVID-19 testing.

As of 12:30 p.m. about 80 people came out to the local landmark for the free testing, according to AMI staff.

Kim DePue of Lehighton was among them.

“What brought me here was the local, convenient free testing,” DePue said. “It appears to be no hassle.

DePue added he believes “it’s a good thing. Positive.”

“I just think it’s good to know with the vaccine coming out,” he said. “It’s been 10 months; have I been exposed, haven’t I been exposed?

DePue’s reaction once the process was completed?

“It was painless; I really expected worse,” he said. “This was just basically inside the nose; no pain, very quick, simple, convenient.”

A few car lengths down, Tom and Grace Newman of Lehighton awaited their turn.

“We’re getting our annual physical, so we might as well get our test,” Tom Newman said. “They have the vaccine, why bother with the test; the testing scares people, the vaccine cures people.”

Much like DePue, Newman described the process as being “simple and easy, done.”

Bill Thompson of Kresgeville said he’s scheduled to get the shot Saturday.

“It’s close and convenient,” Thompson said. “I want to make sure I don’t have it (because) I deal with a lot of people.”

The testing involves each nostril getting swabbed 10 seconds per side.

Those who test positive get a phone call within two to three days, while those who test negative receive an email within five to seven days.

The free testing continues daily through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. just inside the main entrance at 2950 Pohopoco Drive, Lehighton.

Clinics are also being held in Adams, McKean, Snyder and Washington counties.

The counties with testing sites will continue to change weekly over the next six weeks so that 61 counties will eventually be covered by dedicated pop-up testing sites over a 12-week period.

From March through Jan. 14, the department has received 8.2 million polymerase chain reaction test results, which roughly equates to 64.2 percent of the population. From May through Jan. 14, the department has received 921,595 antigen test results. The total number of tests combined equates to 9,141,085, roughly 71.4 percent of the total Pennsylvania population.

The department extended and expanded its initial contract with AMI to perform pop-up testing in counties across the state.

The initial AMI testing and the extension were funded by the federal ELC Enhancing Detection grant.

Up to 450 patients can be tested per day. Testing is on a first-come, first-serve basis and is free to all patients.

Testing is also open to people who are not county residents. Patients must be ages 3 and older and are not required to show symptoms of COVID-19 in order to be tested. No appointment is necessary. Patients are encouraged to bring a photo-ID or insurance card.

Registration will also be completed on-site.

People who are tested should self-quarantine while they await test results. Those who live with other people should self-quarantine in a private room and use a private bathroom if possible. Others living in the home with the individual awaiting test results should also stay at home.

Kim DePue of Lehighton receives free COVID-19 testing Wednesday afternoon at Beltzville State Park. Iris Chihuahua, an Emergency Medical Technician for AMI, performs the tests. TERRY AHNER/TIMES NEWS