During a teleconference on Thursday Penn Highlands Heathcare announced they now have a rapid COVID-19 test available at their QCare Clinics.
Mark Norman, Chief Operating Officer said the test provides results within 24 hours.
It is suggested that you take this test only if you have been exposed to someone who has tested positive or if you have symptoms such as loss of taste/smell, fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, diarrhea and vomiting.
The tests are available at these QCare locations: Clearfield, DuBois, Punxsutawney, Moshannon Valley, and St. Marys and at Penn Highlands Huntingdon Urgent Care Center. You just need to walk in, and they will supply a referral for the test.
Other COVID tests are still available with a referral from your primary care physician. You can also get a referral using the MyHealthNow app which has a QCareNow option.
It is stressed that after being tested you self-quarantine until you get the results.
Dr. Shaun Sheehan, Medical Director of Emergency Medicine for Penn Highlands Healthcare and the PHH COVID-19 Task Leader, had a few recommendations to avoid exposure to the virus during the Thanksgiving holiday.
It is best to celebrate with only the people that live in your household. If you do invite others, he suggested keeping the group small, wearing masks, washing your hands both before and after the meal and eating outside if possible.
In general most new cases are coming from gatherings of individuals without masking and social distancing, he stated. Some of these involve alcohol intake which leads to people forgetting the precautions, he added.
There are more patients in the hospital now because there are a larger number of cases in the area. Only 5% of those infected develop serious symptoms, Sheehan explained.
Luckily at this point in the pandemic there are medications and treatments that have proven effective.
Still, Sheehan commented that “You have a less chance of ending up on a ventilator if you don’t get it at all.”
Norman stated that currently there are 35 COVID patients in the DuBois, Clearfield and Brookville hospitals and 10 in Tyrone.
As cases numbers rise, Norman emphasized that the safety of their patients is a “top priority” and they are following all the federal and state guidelines at their facilities.
Sheehan urged everyone to seek attention when they are very sick and not hesitate. Primary symptoms that require attention are having trouble breathing, an inability to stay awake and lips turning blue.
One of the questions from the press during the teleconference was about the vaccines from both Pfizer and Moderna that are reported to be 95% effective and how they will be distributed.
Sheehan stated that the plans are not fully in place yet, but the people most at risk will get them first. This includes those who are diabetic, have hypertension, are obese or elderly.
When asked if the flu will be worse this year, Sheehan stated that they have not seen many flu patients yet. He went on to say that in the southern hemisphere, they actually had less cases of flu during their flu season because all of the precautions to prevent the spread of COVID also protect people from the annual flu virus.
Another question involved helping the staff deal with stress.
Norman replied that they meet weekly and have been providing free appreciation meals to employees and have an ongoing recognition program.
There are no plans to have a teleconference next week due to the holiday. The weekly conference will continue on Dec. 3.