Here’s why hundreds of Delco residents can now receive free rapid COVID-19 tests

The ongoing COVID-19 crisis requires strong partnerships across every level of society, write Sen. Tim Kearney, Dr. Monica Taylor, and Dr. Azmat Husain.

A health worker grabs at-home COVID-19 test kits

File photo: A health worker grabs at-home COVID-19 test kits to be handed out. (David Dermer/AP)

Swift yet thoughtful thinking and creative action are critical when it comes to addressing the threat presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

And in Delaware County, which recently had the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the region, we’re committed to working together across the public and private sectors to keep our residents safe.

Work to set up the new county Health Department has been underway for over two years, just days after the new council members were sworn into office, however, the pandemic has highlighted just how vital it is for the county to have its own public Health Department. Our new Health Department will give us the local expertise and resources to respond to the ever-changing COVID-19 pandemic and reduce our reliance on the state and neighboring counties, while using evidence to guide decision-making.

The new Health Department includes more than 65 new employees working for the COVID-19 Response Division and Public Health Policy and Strategy Division to help facilitate testing, contact tracing, vaccinations, and to provide guidance to residents, schools, local governments, and businesses.

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Testing and vaccines are the most important tools we have to mitigate the highly contagious omicron variant and keep our families, workplaces, and communities safe.

Increased and easily accessible testing allows us to slow the transmission through proper quarantining and helps our schools and other vital institutions remain open.

However, given the urgent and high demand for testing caused by the surge, it was clear that too many families in Delco were struggling to find tests.

That’s why we formed a unique public-private partnership, working with Personic Health Care, a local Springfield-based health provider, to open a new countywide COVID-19 testing facility at the Delaware County Emergency Services Training Center in Sharon Hill.

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Hundreds of residents each day are now able to receive rapid antigen and PCR COVID-19 tests at no cost — regardless of insurance or immigration status.

This partnership doesn’t just expand access to testing, it also removes financial barriers that disproportionately impact immigrant communities, low-income families, and people of color — groups that have long suffered from health inequities.

By working together, we are able to provide residents with the reassurance and peace of mind they need as we enter yet another year of the pandemic.

Public-private partnerships like this one are critical to a swift pandemic response.

County and state officials brought their expertise and credibility as trusted community leaders, while officials at Personic, who operate the largest testing center in the region and have administered more than 100,000 COVID-19 tests since the beginning of the pandemic, brought the experience in health care and operations needed to reach patients quickly and safely. And because Personic owns its own testing lab, residents are able to have PCR test results back within 24 hours.

This ongoing crisis requires strong partnerships across every level of society. We’re grateful that the Biden administration is making it easier for those with health insurance to access at-home tests, and postal workers in Delaware County are working to provide free testing kits to families under a new federal program.

It’s essential that residents have access to free, easy, and rapid testing in order to slow the spread of omicron.  Our public-private partnership provided an innovative solution to address a critical health care gap in our community and works together to close gaps in our health care system and meet the critical needs of our community.

We need all stakeholders working together with the common goal of keeping our communities safe and DELCO STRONG.

Sen. Tim Kearney represents the 26th Senatorial District, which includes portions of Delaware County. Dr. Monica Taylor is chair of the Delaware County Council. Dr. Azmat Husain is an emergency medicine physician and founder of Personic Health Care.

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