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Blair getting new virus test site

Testing at Convention Center will be free

A state Department of Health contractor will begin operating a free COVID-19 testing site at the Blair County Convention Center this weekend in response to the area’s worsening viral outbreak.

The site will accept patients from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. for eight days over a 10-day stretch: Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, then Sunday, Nov. 22, and the following Monday and Tuesday, according to a DoH news release on Friday. The Convention Center is at 1 Convention Center Drive in Altoona.

Patients, who must be at least 3 years old, don’t need to have COVID-19 symptoms and don’t need an appointment.

Results will be available in two to seven days.

Patients are “encouraged” to bring a photo-ID or an insurance card.

AMI Expeditionary Healthcare will conduct the testing for up to 440 patients per day.

AMI has operated test sites in Centre, Huntingdon and six other counties, according to the DoH.

“The department believes that increased testing in the county will assist in determining the prevalence of the virus and assist (Blair County) in moving forward,” the news release stated.

There’s “significant cause for concern,” stated Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine, citing an increase of 1,760 cases in Blair since the beginning of September, as quoted in the release.

The county has set or tied its daily new case record four times since the beginning of the month.

The latest high was 149 cases on Thursday.

That exceeded 90 on Sunday, which was 10 more than the total on Nov. 4 and Nov. 1.

Blair’s overall total Friday rose to 2,290 — second among the region’s six counties to Centre, which has a total of 4,988.

Blair’s positivity rate is 9.6%, almost double the 5% threshold of concern, according to the DoH’s Early Warning Monitoring System Dashboard, which is updated on Fridays.

Blair’s incidence rate over the past week — the number of new cases per 100,000 people — is 338.

That is 6.75 times the threshold of concern, which is 50.

While Blair produced the most egregious incidence rate among local counties, Bedford produced the most egregious positivity rate of 19.7%, almost four times the threshold of concern, 5%.

Both the positivity rate and the incidence rate for each of the local counties exceeds the concern thresholds.

Both measures for the state as a whole also exceed those concern levels.

Moreover, both the positivity rate and the incidence rate for both the local counties and the state rose this week, compared to the previous week — except the incidence rate for Huntingdon County, which dropped slightly.

The state on Friday set a new case record — 5,531.

It was the eighth daily record in the previous 11 days.

The first of those — 2,875 — exceeded a high point from April.

The Early Warning Dashboard’s key numbers, with incidence rates, followed by positivity rates:

— Blair: 338; 9.6%.

— Bedford: 332; 19.7%.

— Cambria: 274; 8.5%.

— Centre: 262; 8.4%.

— Clearfield: 176; 9.5%.

— Huntingdon: 307; 13.3%.

— Pennsylvania: 204; 9.6%.

Other test sites in Blair County are at a UPMC site on Pleasant Valley Boulevard, MedExpress Urgent Care Center, the Van Zandt VA Medical Center and Penn Highlands Tyrone Hospital.

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