COVID-19 DOH Testing Lab

Courtesy of the Pennsylvania Department of Health

Pennsylvania Commonwealth microbiologist Kerry Pollard performs a manual extraction of the coronavirus inside the extraction lab at the Pennsylvania Department of Health Bureau of Laboratories on March 6.

A doctor at Cornerstone Care is in isolation awaiting the results of a patient’s test for the novel coronavirus, according to Richard Rinehart, chief executive officer of the community health centers, “to err on the side of caution.

“Possibly two other doctors will have to go into isolation,” Rinehart said late Wednesday afternoon.

He confirmed that was still the case Thursday with “some variations in level of isolation depending on the nature of potential exposure.”

The doctors do not have COVID-19 symptoms.

“It was the patient they were in contact with that was showing symptoms,” Rinehart explained. “We will need to find out the patient’s test results before we can proceed.”

Just because a patient had symptoms doesn’t mean he or she will test positive for the new coronavirus, but Rinehart said, “We’re following (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) protocols for test factors.

“If we could buy (personal protective equipment), we’d be using PPE,” he continued. “We just can’t get access to it.”

He has encountered the same scarcity of coronavirus testing kits, he said, “We have used some of the few tests we have” and wished “if we could find supplies to buy.”

Congress last week allocated funds for federal public health services, including $62,254 for Cornerstone, which has facilities in Washington, Greene, Fayette and Allegheny counties.

While Rinehart said, “I’m grateful for the money,” he put the amount in perspective by noting a single day’s expenses to staff and maintain 10 locations with 195 employees is about $70,000.

The allocated funds, announced Tuesday by the federal Department of Human Services has not yet arrived, nor has Rinehart seen specific rules for its use.

When doctors aren’t available to see patients, “these doctors are out of circulation unless we can hook them up to telehealth,” Rinehart said. “I think we are going to be seeing more of this.”

Jeff Yates, Washington County director of public safety, Thursday said he is aware of the situation at Cornerstone Care and “We’ve been sending their unmet needs request to (Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency).”

Washington County Commission Chairman Diana Irey Vaughan, who is part of a coronavirus task force that the county created earlier this month that includes representation from Cornerstone Care, said Thursday, “This is so new for us, and so new for out medical community. They put themselves at risk every day to care for those who are ill.”

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