Montgomery County faces strenuous COVID-19 testing conditions

Photo+Courtesy+of+Izzy+Feldman+%2721

Photo Courtesy of Izzy Feldman ’21

With more than 11,500 cases as of Sept. 14, Montgomery County has been a coronavirus hotspot for months. With heightened cases, the county faces a new challenge in testing community members in a feasible and effective way.  `

Testing was its hardest in mid-April. Tests were only made available to individuals who met at least one of five criteria presented by the County Department of Public Safety, which also changed frequently according to test availability. Those unable to be tested were placed on a daily waitlist as clinics couldn’t test enough people. Many were left to self-isolate and care for themselves not knowing if they had contracted the virus. 

However, by early June Montgomery County had improved testing significantly. As of Sept. 14, there were a total of 19 community-based testing sites, six of which are financially covered by the CARES Act Fund. The testing sites accept patients both through drive-throughs and walk-ins; appointments can be made over the phone or online, and results are returned anywhere between four to six days. Immediate care clinics are also readily available for those willing to pay or hold insurance coverage. 

As testing increased throughout the county, Montgomery County went from having the second-highest coronavirus cases in Pennsylvania to having the lowest percent-positivity rate in cases as of mid-August. Testing is more available and convenient, but healthcare officials and doctors are still using kits sparingly. Those who call for an appointment or consult with their doctors have a possibility of being deemed at low risk and denied testing. Therefore, Montgomery might not completely provide testing for everyone, but circumstances have definitely improved.

Dr. Kristen Spencer, medical director at Hill, and the Wellness Center team have been managing the testing across our campus since students began arriving.

“There are a number of ways in which people in Pottstown can be tested. At Hill, we test students who have symptoms and send those swabs out to a commercial lab partner,” Spencer said. “Montgomery County has a testing site close to campus. They have just contracted with a new lab partner, so their turnaround times are much shorter now.”

She also mentioned that there are still some small difficulties regarding testing in our community.

“They can test 100 patients per day, but at times it can be hard to get an appointment. There is still not enough testing capacity across the county, particularly the hotspots.”