Universal coronavirus testing is still a pipe dream, but more people are now eligible to get tested in Philadelphia.
As of this week, the city health department is recommending that test sites accept anyone exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms. That’s a big switch from previous guidelines, which limited testing to symptomatic people over the age of 50, in addition to health care workers.
Why the expanded criteria? Slowly but surely, more of the needed supplies are becoming available, according to Health Commissioner Dr. Tom Farley.
“We are seeing improvements in the number of materials we have for doing testing, and the laboratory capacity to do testing,” he said Monday.
Organizations running test sites should still prioritize people with the highest risks, Farley added.
“We’re now recommending testing…for anyone with symptoms compatible to the coronavirus infection, regardless of age,” Farley said. “Within that, though, we’re recommending priority for people who are at higher risk, or in higher risk situations.”
Who’s given test priority?
People considered at-risk and prioritized for testing include
- Health care workers, including behavioral health
- Residents and staff at congregate living facilities, like homeless shelters and nursing homes
- Public safety workers, such as members of police, fire and EMS departments
- Other essential workers, such as staff at grocery stores and pharmacies
- People who’ve come in contact with others with confirmed cases
Widespread contact tracing with detailed location tracking is something the city is planning to roll out once infections and deaths are much lower, Farley said, and the region gets to a point where the economy is ready to reopen. When that’ll happen is still unknown.
The average number of new cases reported daily in Philly has been on the decline. It could start to rise because more people are now eligible, but Farley said he didn’t expect the change to be significant until the city gets to 5,000 tests per day, up from the current 1,500 or so.
What symptoms merit a test?
According to the Centers for Disease Control, official COVID-19 symptoms are:
- Dry cough
- Shortness of breath
- Repeated shaking with chills
- Muscle pain
- Sore throat
- A newly discovered loss of taste or smell
Anyone of any age exhibiting these symptoms can now get a test. But don’t just show up, Farley warned, because that increases chances you’ll have to wait around, which isn’t the safest thing. Make an appointment first, he said.
Coronavirus test sites in Philadelphia
Check the map below to find a test center near you, then call to schedule your visit.
For the city supported sites and many other locations, no health insurance is required.