City expands eligibility critera for free COVID-19 testing

The Philadelphia Department of Public Health is now recommending COVID-19 coronavirus testing for anyone regardless of age who has a new cough, is experiencing new shortness of breath, or two of the following symptoms: fever, chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache, new loss of taste or smell. The expansion of testing recommendations comes as a result of the increasing availability of coronavirus testing at public health and commercial laboratories. Increased testing for the coronavirus is a key part of the City’s and Pennsylvania’s plan to re-open safely.

Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said, “Until we have the ability to test everyone who may have been exposed to COVID-19 coronavirus, we won’t know how safe it will be to re-open Philadelphia. And contact tracing will require that we identify as many people with the infection as possible. Expanding our recommendations on who should be tested is the first step in that process, and I hope that our partners in testing follow these recommendations.”

With the newly expanded testing recommendations, the Health Department also recommends that test sites set a priority for testing the following groups of people if they have symptoms:

  •     Those who are hospitalized
  •     Those at increased risk for severe disease because of have chronic medical conditions
  •     Residents and staff in congregate settings (i.e., nursing homes, behavioral health facilities, shelters, and prisons)
  •     Healthcare workers
  •     Public safety workers (i.e., Police, Fire, EMS)
  •     Other essential workers (i.e., mass transit workers, grocery store / pharmacy staff, etc.)
  •     Close contacts of known cases or persons who are associated with a known cluster of cases regardless of age

Testing sites should also consider testing asymptomatic persons who are part of a cluster of cases, especially in congregate settings.

The Health Department’s previous testing recommendations stated that only people who were symptomatic and in one of the following at-risk groups should be tested:

  •     Over the age of 50
  •     Health care workers
  •     Those who live or work in a group setting like a nursing home or shelter
  •     Those who have a chronic health condition such as diabetes, heart disease, and lung disease
  •     Those who have had contact with a known case of COVID-19 within 14 days
  •     Those who have a severe or worsening illness and must be hospitalized

For more information on the City’s response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, visit the City’s COVID-19 website. A number of COVID-19 resources have been translated into multiple languages. For medical questions about COVID-19, residents are encouraged to call the Greater Philadelphia Coronavirus Helpline at 1 (800) 722-7112. Residents are similarly encouraged to text COVIDPHL to 888-777 to get updates sent to their phones.


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