Testing at fairgrounds

Melvin Lehman speaks with an AMI Expeditionary Healthcare employee at the Crawford County Fairgrounds prior to getting a COVID-19 test. The Pennsylvania Department of Health is offering free COVID-19 testing at the fairgrounds through Wednesday of next week.

WEST MEAD TOWNSHIP — The opportunity to get COVID-19 tests quickly and locally Tuesday was something Melvin and Sheila Lehman of Guys Mills wanted to have.

The Lehmans were among those who went to the fairgrounds in West Mead Township for a free coronavirus test offered through the Pennsylvania Department of Health and its testing contractor, AMI Expeditionary Healthcare of Reston, Virginia.

"We're fully vaccinated and planning to travel to Canada Friday, but you need (COVID-19) clearance to enter the country," said Melvin, who is scheduled to speak at a seminar this weekend in Canada.

To travel into Canada, a person must have at least two doses of a Government of Canada-accepted COVID-19 vaccine or a mix of two accepted vaccines; upload proof of vaccination to ArriveCAN, the Government of Canada's mandatory travel information application; and have no signs or symptoms of the coronavirus.

In addition, Canada requires a pre-entry COVID-19 test for all travelers age 5 or older, regardless of citizenship or vaccination status. To enter Canada, a person must have proof of a COVID-19 negative molecular test result with the test taken within 72 hours of a scheduled flight, or arrival at a land border crossing to enter Canada.

An acceptable test is a polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, test, which is the type of COVID-19 test done at the fairgrounds. It involves a nasal swab being taken with the material analyzed to determine if SARSCoV-2, the virus that causes COVID, is present.

Having testing available at the fairgrounds was stroke of luck for the Lehmans' planned trip, according to Melvin.

"We called (area) pharmacies like CVS and they're all booked out," he said as he and Sheila filled out test authorization forms in their van. "We're so happy this test is available because the window (to get a test result) for us is so small."

The Department of Health is offering free COVID-19 testing at the fairgrounds through Wednesday of next week.

"We want to provide convenient testing where it might be needed and rotate the testing sites around the state," Barry Ciccocioppo, the department's communications director, said in an email to the Tribune.

The Lehmans were among 86 to get a COVID-19 test Tuesday, according to Aicha Monoyajo, a registered nurse leading AMI's 12-person testing team at the fairgrounds. The site has the capability to test up to 450 people each day, she said.

This is the second time the Crawford County Fairgrounds has been used as a COVID-19 testing site by the health department. In early January, it held free testing there for a five-day period. There were 192 tests performed the first day and a total of 935 during the five-day period.

Tuesday's free tests took place on a day when 40 new cases were reported in the county. 

Regionally, Erie County added 205 cases Tuesday, Mercer County added 68 cases, Venango County added 47 and Warren County added 50. Allegheny College's COVID dashboard lists 16 active student cases and five active cases among employees.

All 67 Pennsylvania counties reported high levels of community transmission of COVID on Tuesday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That means they were all seeing at least 100 new cases per 100,000 residents over the previous seven days.

There were 2,948 patients hospitalized statewide with COVID-19 infections Tuesday, up 154 from Monday and more than 200 over the past two days. It is the highest number of hospitalizations statewide since 2,900 were hospitalized on Oct. 22. Of those hospitalized statewide, 631 were being treated in intensive care units (ICUs), up 17, and 349 were being treated on ventilators, up six.

There were 53 people hospitalized with the virus in the county, 13 individuals in an ICU and eight ventilators in use, all the same as Monday. The state said there was one adult ICU bed available, also the same as Monday.

The number of Pennsylvanians fully vaccinated is 6.54 million, including 36,383 in Crawford County. A total of 9,521 people have had an additional dose of vaccine since Aug. 13.

Keith Gushard can be reached at (814) 724-6370 or by email at kgushard@meadvilletribune.com.

YOU CAN GET TESTED

Free testing for COVID-19 is available at the Crawford County Fairgrounds, just east of Meadville in West Mead Township, through Nov. 24, through the Pennsylvania Department of Health and AMI Expeditionary Healthcare of Reston, Virginia.

Testing is on a first-come, first-serve basis with no appointment required, according to the department.

Anyone age 3 or older can be tested. Individuals are not required to show symptoms of COVID-19 to be tested. Patients are asked to take photo identification with them, but ID is not required to be tested.

Testing hours at the fairgrounds, located at 13921 Dickson Road, are today through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Free testing continues next week from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday and Tuesday and from 9 a.m. to noon Wednesday. Vehicles are to enter the fairgrounds' Gate 1 off Dickson Road.

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