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By DAVID CAMPHOUSE
The Pike County Health Department (PCHD) was chosen by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) to participate in a Rural Testing Pilot to provide free COVID-19 testing for community members, regardless of which county they live in.
As a result, PCHD staff has been providing free drive-through COVID-19 testing at the Pike-Scott Farm Bureau building, located at 1301 E. Washington St. in Pittsfield. Testing is offered Monday-Thursday, 9a.m. – 1p.m., until further notice.
According to PCHD Director of Nursing Sharon Bargmann, PCHD was chosen to host the IDPH-funded testing site because few testing sites are accessible to west-central Illinois residents.
“The reason we were chosen is because there is no free testing near us,” Bargmann said.
IDPH describes much of west-central Illinois as a “rural testing desert.”
Bargmann indicated that many individuals in need of a COVID-19 test have been going to local healthcare providers, such as Quincy Medical Group and Illini Express, however charges for the testing make it prohibitively expensive for many residents.
“I have heard some people are going to Illini Express, but the charge is $75,” Bargmann said.
According to an Illini Express representative, the $75 charge is incorporated into the charge for the patient visit. A representative from Quincy Medical Group in Quincy indicated that for an uninsured patient, a rapid COVID-19 test could cost as much as $180.
“There are a lot of people that just can’t afford that, especially if there are multiple people in the household that need testing,” Bargmann said.
Bargmann said that PCHD’s testing was further necessitated by mandates on certain employees to get regular COVID-19 testing.
“A lot of people are required to test for their jobs,” Bargmann said. “But a lot of places won’t let you come in for testing if you’re asymptomatic.”
While COVID-19 has already pushed the capacity of PCHD staff, Bargmann said the need for testing in the area warranted the extra effort on the part of PCHD staff members.
“It’s a stretch on our already thin staff,” Bargmann said. “Our administrator felt there was a need in the community, so we are doing it anyway.”
Results of testing will be available online through the Midwest Coordination Center.
Participants will receive a link to register online at testedandprotected.org. Results will be available at that website in 24-48 hours. Please do not call PCHD for results. Participants without internet and/or email access will be contacted by the health department only if your test is positive.
Follow posted signage to enter the testing site. Testing will be drive-thru. Please stay in your car. PCHD staff will gather necessary information for testing and oversee self- collection of the COVID-19 test.
PCHD also provides free COVID-19 vaccinations and booster shots. COVID vaccination clinics will be every Thursday in December, 1:30 – 4:30 p.m. at the health department. Please go to www.pikecountyil.org for more information.
The best way to prevent contracting COVID-19 continues to be socially distancing, washing your hands, masking, and getting a COVID-19 vaccination per CDC recommendation