PHILADELPHIA, PA — With the novel coronavirus spreading widely in PA, advocacy group PennPIRG released a scorecard that gives PA an F for not doing enough COVID-19 testing. Health experts agree that testing is one of the most effective ways to combat the virus, but according to a Brown University School of Public Health model, PA has to do 15 times as much testing as it’s doing now. PennPIRG is urging Congress to quickly pass legislation to fund additional tests and testing infrastructure.
“The virus is spreading like wildfire, but our testing capacity has increased at a glacial pace. We’re calling on Governor Wolf to ramp up testing, but the state needs federal support to make it happen. Failing to widely test for COVID-19 puts everyone in Pennsylvania at greater risk and prolongs economic damage,” said Emma Horst-Martz, PennPIRG Advocate.
PennPIRG says in its updated scorecard, PA has earned an F for being 22.2% towards its testing target. Since PennPIRG reviewed the state’s testing capacity in December, PA’s progress toward its testing goal has increased from 10.50% to 22.2%.
The group is encouraging people to sign a petition to Congress urging lawmakers to swiftly pass additional legislation that provides at least $50 billion in funding to expand COVID-19 testing. That support is needed even more urgently now that the state’s limited resources are divided between testing and vaccination programs. We need to roll the vaccines out quickly but we also need to maintain a robust testing response.
State governors can also emulate best practices from other states that have already hit their testing targets, including Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Maine. Those include:
Increasing the numbers of testing locations, drive-through testing sites, walk-up sites and mobile testing units that go to higher-risk settings such as churches, nursing homes, meat-packing factories and schools.
Launching a state-sponsored educational campaign so that people know when they should get a test, where they can get tested and how.
Breaking down barriers to testing, ensuring that anyone who needs a test can get a test.
Targeting testing efforts in high-risk settings.
“With the virus surging all over the country, the first thing to do is get cases down quickly through temporary stay-at-home orders. But ramping up and maintaining adequate levels of testing capacity until we can vaccinate everyone is absolutely key to getting this virus under control for the long term,” said Horst-Martz.
For an analysis of all fifty states testing protocols, check out U.S. PIRG Health Care Campaigns Director Patricia Kelmar’s recent blog, “Is your state doing enough testing?”
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