Coronavirus

The Pennsylvania Department of Health on Saturday reported 5,551 new cases of COVID-19 in the state, another single-day high.

There were 50 new deaths in Pennsylvania attributed to the virus on Saturday, including six in Cambria County, two in Westmoreland County and one in Indiana County, according to the Department of Health’s data. Those increases brought those counties’ official death tolls to 21, 133 and 24, respectively.

There were 134 new cases of COVID-19 reported on Saturday in Blair County, where Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine announced late Friday that a new drive-through and indoor testing clinic will open Sunday at Blair County Convention Center, 1 Convention Center Dr., Altoona.

Other counties in the region saw triple- or double-digit increases in their case counts Saturday – 155 new cases in Westmoreland County, 90 in Bedford County, 83 in Cambria County, 52 in Clearfield County, 45 in Indiana County and 14 in Somerset County. The state as a whole reached totals of 259,938 cases and 9,274 deaths attributed to the virus as of Saturday.

Testing at the new Blair County clinic will be available from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Sunday through Thursday and from Nov. 22 to Nov. 24, according to the Department of Health.

“Since the beginning of September,” Levine said, “we have seen an increase of 1,760 cases in Blair County, which gives us significant cause for concern. This testing site will be open to anyone who feels they need a test. It is important that even people with no symptoms who test positive isolate to stop the spread of COVID-19.”

Up to 440 patients can be tested per day at the Blair County site, according to the Department of Health. Mid-nasal passage swab tests will be performed. Testing is to be done on a first-come, first-served basis and is free to all patients. No appointment is necessary. Registration will be completed on-site. Patients are encouraged to bring a photo identification or insurance card.

Patients must be age three or older and are not required to show COVID-19 symptoms in order to be tested. The turnaround time to receive test results is expected by the Department of Health to be two to seven days.

The state has contracted with AMI Expeditionary Healthcare to provide COVID-19 testing in counties across Pennsylvania. Department of Health officials said they decide where to open testing sites based on metrics including the total number of confirmed cases per 100,000 people in the past 14 days. Blair County had the 19th-highest percent-positivity rate in the state this week, at 8.0%, up from 5.6% the previous week.

Mark Pesto is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkPesto.

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