As COVID-19 cases remain elevated, state leaders are encouraging more people to seek testing if they have symptoms or are exposed to those who are ill.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health’s senior adviser on COVID-19 response said additional testing will help identify new outbreak areas and determine if the state is experiencing a fourth wave.

“Despite the number of cases rising, we’re seeing the demand for testing decrease,” Lindsey Mauldin said Tuesday during a press briefing. “We need to redouble efforts to increase the use of testing, even as we ramp up the vaccine process.”

Rapid testing that has been used in colleges and universities is being expanded to elementary and high schools to track new cases in students and teachers, she said.

Mauldin stressed that the vaccine program’s growing success does not offset the need for continued vigilance.

“At this point, folks are starting to think that testing isn’t as important because of the work that’s happening with vaccines,” Mauldin said. “We are seeing a lot of relaxation in terms of some of those personal accountability measures as well. We are looking to ensure that testing is ramped back up so we continue to fight this virus.”

Tuesday’s report added 4,255 positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 1,049,655.

The rolling seven-day average of new cases is now 4,192 a day.

Two weeks ago, it was 3,033 cases a day, and four weeks ago, it was 2,472 cases a day.

Blair County added one death and Westmoreland County added two among 37 across the state, bringing Pennsylvania’s total to 25,237 deaths attributed to COVID-19.

Cambria County added 40 cases. It is only the third day since February with an increase of 40 or more cases and comes on the heels of Saturday’s 75-case increase – the most since Jan. 20.

With nine new cases Tuesday, Bedford was the region’s only county with a single-digit increase.

Somerset County added 27 cases, Blair County added 62, Indiana and Clearfield counties each added 17, Centre County added 48 and Westmoreland County added 164.

Meanwhile, there have been 5,702,677 vaccine doses administered in Pennsylvania, and 2,037,055 people are fully vaccinated.

Gov. Tom Wolf on Tuesday thanked grocery-store workers for their essential service throughout the pandemic. The 180,000 workers are among those in Phase 1B who became eligible for COVID-19 vaccines on Monday.

“On behalf of all Pennsylvanians, I want to sincerely thank our grocery workers for all that they do every day to provide for others and keep our communities safe,” Wolf said at a Cumberland County Weis Market. “All Pennsylvanians owe a debt of gratitude to our commonwealth’s grocery workers, and we should all celebrate the fact that this group of frontline heroes now has the option to be vaccinated.”

Randy Griffith is a health reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 814-532-5057. Follow him on Twitter @PhotoGriffer57.

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