Pottstown Mercury: Montgomery County officials commit to funding walk-up coronavirus testing sites
by Carl Hessler, Jr.
June 26, 2020
NORRISTOWN — While the initial federal funding that Montgomery County received for COVID-19 testing may be ending soon, local officials are committed to keeping walk-up, community-based testing sites open and will use other available funding to do so.
County Commissioners’ Chairwoman Dr. Valerie Arkoosh said the federal funding for virus testing first allocated in March for a drive-thru testing site in the county will end on June 30.
“This change has been anticipated and the county has been planning for this transition. Based on resident feedback, the county, beginning July 6 will stand up new, walk-up testing sites around the county and will continue to operate the existing walk-up sites in Norristown and Pottstown,” Arkoosh said.
Officials plan to announce the locations of the new walk-up testing sites on July 1.
“I want to emphasize that these county-run sites will also be no cost, although insurance will be billed if you have it. They will not require a health care provider’s order and we will test any individuals of any age who want or need to be tested,” Arkoosh said.
Funding for the new sites, Arkoosh said, will be covered by federal CARES Act monies the county is slated to receive. The county previously was earmarked to receive about $145 million under the CARES Act to fight the coronavirus.
Pennsylvania’s seven largest counties, including Montgomery County, received funds directly from the federal government under the CARES Act.
The CARES Act established the $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund. The CARES Act requires that payments from the Coronavirus Relief Fund only be used to cover expenses that “are necessary expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency” associated with the coronavirus, according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
The county has been facilitating three community-based testing sites in Norristown, Pottstown and Whitpain. The three sites will be open Monday, June 29 and Tuesday, June 30, but will be closed beginning July 1.
A walk-up testing site is available at the county’s Office of Public Health Pottstown Health Center at 364 King St. Testing will be available next Monday and Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. by appointment only. To make an appointment, residents should call 610-970-2937 beginning at 8:30 a.m. on the day you’d like to be tested.
A walk-up community-based testing site also is located on the parking lot of the Delaware Valley Community Health Norristown Regional Health Center, 1401 DeKalb St., in Norristown. Testing will be available next Monday and Tuesday from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. Residents can register for testing by calling 610-592-0680 starting at 8:30 a.m. daily.
Arkoosh said the plan is to reopen the Pottstown and Norristown walk-up sites on July 6 under the new funding stream.
“There will be additional sites that open on Monday, July 6 and we will share that information next week as soon as it is finalized,” Arkoosh explained.
The drive-thru testing site at the central campus of the Montgomery County Community College in Whitpain will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. next Monday and Tuesday.
Registration for appointments will open at 8 a.m. daily and will remain open until all available spots are filled. Individuals can register online at www.montcopa.org/COVID-19 or can call 610-631-3000 to register for a testing appointment.
The drive-thru site in Whitpain has been in operation since April 16.
Arkoosh expressed thanks to community college officials, Whitpain officials and township police, the Pennsylvania National Guard who staffed the site and all the residents who live near the testing site for assisting with the operation.
“It has been extraordinary work and we are so grateful for the efforts that everyone has made to make sure that all Montgomery County residents and residents from across our region can be tested,” Arkoosh said.
The drive-thru site previously was operated at Temple University’s Ambler Campus in Upper Dublin from March 20 to April 10, when testing supplies and federal funding was set to end.
However, U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-4th Dist., wrote a letter to U.S. Health and Human Services officials urging continued federal support to continue a testing site, stressing that without the support of the federal government the testing site would be closed.
Days later, officials from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency responded by committing to provide additional federal funding for a drive-thru testing site to remain in the county through June 30.
At that point, officials decided to move the site to the community college campus in Whitpain.