Andrew Rush

Andrew Rush, UPMC Somerset president.

SOMERSET – A collection center for coronavirus testing will open Tuesday in Somerset, UPMC Somerset announced.

The facility, at 223 S. Pleasant Ave., will be limited to patients who receive a physician consultation and referral for symptoms consistent with COVID-19, the hospital said in a press release.

“The site is not open to the public, and walk-in patients will not be tested,” the hospital said.

Local physicians will consult with a UPMC infection prevention team to determine when testing is warranted.

“An important part of testing patients for coronavirus is collecting the specimen samples,” hospital President Andrew Rush said. “During the collection, there is the risk of exposure. That is why we’ve created a separate, centralized collection site that ensures the safety of patients, the public and our staff.”

The UPMC network introduced its own testing program earlier this month and has been setting up outpatient collection centers.

UPMC Altoona opened a center last week on Pleasant Valley Boulevard.

All collection centers require trained staff with personal protective equipment that includes gowns, gloves and N95 masks, which are also known as respirators. Facilities are fitted with negative pressure rooms to ensure air leaving the room flows through a high-efficiency filter.

The process involves a nasopharyngeal swab, an instrument that resembles a long, thin version of cotton swabs found in most medicine cabinets. The swab is inserted through a patient’s nose into the nasal cavity.

Specimens will not be tested in Somerset, but instead transported to the UPMC Clinical Laboratory in Pittsburgh, the Department of Health laboratory in Exton, or a commercial laboratory. Results can be available in less than 24 hours from UPMC or the state lab, but may take several days from commercial labs.

Those with symptoms should self-isolate – whether they are tested or not. Anyone whose sample is taken will be instructed to self-isolate until results come back.

If a COVID-19 test returns positive, UPMC will refer the patient to public health authorities and ensure ongoing care.

People who suspect they have COVID-19 but do not have a high fever or breathing problems should call their primary care physicians or use their providers' virtual visit options to get advice. Anyone with a high fever or significant breathing trouble should go to their local emergency department for evaluation and care, the hospital says.

Randy Griffith is a multimedia reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 532-5057. Follow him on Twitter @PhotoGriffer57.

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