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Free COVID testing site returning to Nittany Mall

BELLEFONTE — If you missed an opportunity to get a free COVID-19 test at the drive-through site in State College a few weeks back, don’t worry. Another free COVID-19 testing site is on its way.

The testing site will return to the Nittany Mall next week.

At Tuesday’s Centre County Commissioners’ meeting, the board unanimously approved a contract with AMI Expeditionary Healthcare to operate the walk-in clinic for 15 days beginning on Monday, Oct. 26. The site will be operational through Saturday, Nov. 14.

According to Centre County administrator Margaret Gray, the site will make use of the former Bon Ton department store.

“We’ve worked arrangements with the Nittany Mall so that instead of a drive-up site, it will be a walk-in site, given the change in weather. We have been assigned the old Bon Ton location, which has an outside entrance so that individuals can pull up, park and walk right in,” Gray explained.

AMI is familiar with the site as the group performed free testing at the mall from Sept. 25 through Oct. 10 under a contract with the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

Testing will take place from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. each day.

“We find that a lot of people come more toward the dinner hour,” Gray said of the time change.

There is no age requirement and testing is free of charge. Appointments are not necessary, but a photo ID or insurance card is required to get a test.

The contract approved by the commissioners is for no more than $258,911 and will be funded through money set aside from the county’s $14.7 million CARES Act block grant.

According to Gray, the county will never administer more than 300 tests per day.

“We never got close to that when we were testing for 12 hours a day, so it is highly unlikely we would reach that,” Gray said.

The county, Gray said, won’t be on the hook for full payment if fewer tests are administered.

Although Penn State has its own testing site at the University Park campus, the commissioners agreed that there are several good reasons to bring the free testing site back to Centre County.

“Our frontline workers, perhaps people who are caregivers to senior citizens throughout the county can go in, get tested for free and get the results back within two business days. For all of the care workers in the county, especially the ones who work for smaller agencies, this is a great convenient way for you to assure your clients and your friends that at that point you do not have COVID,” said commissioner Mark Higgins.

Chair Michael Pipe also agreed that bringing the free testing site back the county is a good idea.

“As we enter into cold and flu season, if you think you might not be feeling well, it might just be a cold, it might just be the flu, but let’s make sure. Get tested in case it’s COVID-19 there might be some other health complications with that. It’s perfect timing,” Pipe said.

Pipe said that he hasn’t ruled out the possibility of extending the testing site or bringing it back for a third round of testing.

“As we go through this process, we’ll have the opportunity to see if we want to extend it potentially or if we want to bring them back in December, maybe. But for now, let’s see how it goes,” Pipe said.

The Penn State football team will have its first home game on Saturday, Oct. 31. And while the Big Ten is not allowing fans inside Beaver Stadium, Pipe said there is also some concern that large gatherings may occur as a result and spread the virus.

“We love the fact that cases are decreasing and there is a decline,” Pipe said. “But this isn’t the time to let up on the gas. It’s to make sure we have the resources available.”

The commissioners will meet again at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 27 at the Willowbank Building. The meeting will be televised live on C-NET.

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