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Wolf Administration Outlines Fall Flu, COVID-19 Preparations

October 14, 2020

As Pennsylvania enters the autumn and winter months, the state’s public health infrastructure is ready to address the dual-threat of flu season and an increase in COVID-19 cases, state Secretary of Health Rachel Levine, MD, said today. Speaking at a press conference, Dr. Levine confirmed that, while Pennsylvania has officially entered the second wave of COVID-19 cases, there are significant preparations in place to ensure the commonwealth is able to respond to the influx of cases alongside what promises to be a robust flu season.

Additionally, members of the Wolf Administration outlined the next steps in Pennsylvania’s plan to increase the availability of COVID-19 testing, as part of the federal government’s nationwide distribution of 150 million Abbott rapid antigen test cards. Pennsylvania will receive 3.8 million tests through December, and they will be distributed to vulnerable populations with substantial risk for community spread, as well as locations with moderate risks for community spread and current outbreaks.

Officials said that the goal is to make the state’s testing plan accessible, available, and adaptable as the health care landscape evolves.

Facilities that will receive tests will include:

  • Skilled nursing facilities, personal care homes, and assisted and independent living facilities
  • Drug and alcohol treatment facilities
  • Behavioral health facilities
  • Correctional facilities
  • Higher education institutions
  • K-12 schools in substantial-risk counties
  • Health care facilities

Additionally, Secretary Levine said that, throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, the state’s public health leaders are guided by prevention and mitigation best practices, and are able to use sophisticated data and technology resources to track infection trends and case spikes. During recent weeks, the state has increased its contact tracing capabilities through public health professionals, as well as the state’s COVID-19 monitoring app.

Officials also announced that DOH currently is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on a plan for the COVID-19 vaccine, once it is ready for the public. The plan, based on the CDC-provided playbook, will be a living document that can adapt as the situation evolves. DOH leaders have expressed their intent to ensure that the distribution formula is fair and reflects the different needs of Pennsylvania’s diverse populations and unique geography.

Secretary Levine and agency leaders underscored the importance of continued vigilance to prevent the spread of both illnesses. DOH continues to work with internal and external stakeholders—including HAP and the hospital community—to adapt preparedness plans as needed. Additionally, speakers emphasized that all Pennsylvanians aged 6 months and older (who are able to do so) should get a flu vaccine, preferably during October. The flu vaccine is a key component of protecting community health, alongside COVID-19 prevention measures, including wearing masks, frequently washing hands, maintaining safe distances from others, and staying home when sick.

Pennsylvania’s hospital community remains committed to providing safe care for all patients, regardless of their health needs. Pennsylvanians should not put off getting care due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and should contact their provider to get their care plans back on track.

For more information, contact Robert Shipp, PhD, BSN, RN, HAP’s vice president, population health and clinical affairs.



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