With some Lehigh Valley kids back in classrooms, and three districts reporting positive COVID-19 cases in the last week, questions have been raised about where children can be tested for the virus.
On Thursday, St. Luke’s University Health Network announced a partnership with Bethlehem Area School District to provide expedited medical evaluations and priority processing of COVID-19 testing.
Lehigh Valley parents have more options and opportunities for testing, but that’s not the case elsewhere.
The New York Times reported this week that few sites across the country will test children. Los Angeles offers public testing without any age minimum, while Dallas sets a cutoff at 5 years old, the paper reported.
Companies offering testing also have varying age cutoffs, if they test children at all.
Walgreens doesn’t test children at its drive-thru clinics, and CVS Health dropped the minimum age to 16 for its drive-thru testing sites. The Times reported CVS is in the process of lowering it to 12 years old this month.
The CDC has recommended school-aged children be prioritized for COVID-19 testing if they have:
- signs or symptoms of COVID-19 AND close contact with a person with laboratory confirmed or probable SARS-CoV-2 infection OR increased likelihood for exposure.
- No symptoms but have had close contact with a person with laboratory confirmed or probable SARS-CoV-2 infection.
Southern Lehigh was notified Sept. 4 that a member of its varsity football staff tested positive for the coronavirus, and the school had to postpone its first football game.
On Sunday, Parkland High School reported someone at the school tested positive for COVID-19. The school reopened Aug. 31 for the 2020-2021 school year.
Parkland refers parents to their primary care physicians for testing information.
Two students in the Northampton Area School District have tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus illness, Superintendent Joseph Kovalchik said Thursday.
Both St. Luke’s and Lehigh Valley Health Network are available for families who do not have doctors, and St. Luke’s offers testing should the district need to refer to them, said Sheri Fredrick-Deeb, Parkland’s supervisor of health services and wellness.
Lehigh Valley Health Network sends most children to its testing centers.
“We test very few patients in the offices,” said LVHN spokesman Brian Downs.
In addition to office visits, COVID-19 assessments can be done through e-visits and video visits, he said.
After patients are evaluated, if deemed appropriate based on symptoms, they are sent to an LVHN testing center. The medical professional sets up the testing site to expect the person and get them through faster, Downs said.
Families without a primary care physician can contact LVPG Pediatrics or LVPG Family Medicine and get to a physician “very quickly,” Downs said.
The St. Luke’s program offers test results within 48 hours from the time of specimen collection, generally 48 hours faster than testing offered by other labs, according to a news release.
Employees and students’ families with existing St. Luke’s or Star Wellness primary care providers would go through those offices for a video visit to see if testing is needed.
Those without a St. Luke’s PCP can call the St. Luke’s COVID hotline at 1-866-785-8537 option 7, to be evaluated over the phone by a trained nursing professional to see if further evaluation or testing is needed.
Quest Diagnostics has no age cut off for physician-ordered testing. Testing purchased through QuestDirect, Quest’s consumer initiated testing service, is only available for patients over the age of 18.
The Community-Accessible Testing & Education (CATE) Mobile Response Unit, which this week visited South Side Bethlehem, also has no age restriction.
In addition to testing, LVHN employees have provided complimentary consultation and COVID-19 plan sign-off for more than 15 school districts this summer, Downs said.
Those discussions included direction on testing protocols and effectiveness of testing strategy vs. quarantine, as well as discussions and recommendations about safety precautions for those participating in sports and other activities.
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Sarah Cassi may be reached at email@example.com.