PA Health in partnership with Latino Connection, Highmark Blue Shield and the Independence Blue Cross Foundation announced in August the first-in-the-nation COVID-19 Mobile Response Unit to provide testing and education targeting minority and undeserved communities throughout Pennsylvania.

Friday, September 11, the mobile testing truck made its stop in Berks County at the Reading Branch YMCA. The truck will provide residents with free COVID-19 tests from 11-3pm. The truck will also make a stop at Sinking Spring YMCA, on September 12, from 11-3pm.

Following the press conference outside the YMCA, Reading Mayor Eddie Moran sat down in a chair while local nurses administered the COVID-19 test. Moran say it was important to take the test publicly to show the community it is a quick and effective test to complete.

In total, this testing effort costed $498,000. The department Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity Enhancing Detection fund contributed a $331,000 grant. In addition, specimens will be collected and taken to the Pennsylvania Bureau of Laboratories for testing after each event.

Known as CATE, Community-Accessible Testing & Education, the unit is equipped to conduct COVID-19 testing on-site through a mobile RV vehicle while also educating the public on how to stay healthy and safe. The mobile response unit’s tagline is “Sharing knowledge to erase fear,” which it intends to do through widespread community healthcare and health education offered with no insurance required.

“I am thrilled and humbled for Latino Connection to play a role in this critically important initiative,” George Fernandez, Founder and CEO of Latino Connection said.

“With almost 30 tour stops already on the schedule, CATE will be accessible to people in nearly every region across Pennsylvania. Any organization that wishes to request a stop in its community may complete a contact form on the website to do so.”

Services are available on a first come, first serve basis. Social distancing and masking guidelines and will be followed at all times. While each tour stop provider’s policies are different, most providers, if not short on testing supplies, will test anyone who believes they’ve been exposed to COVID. Other providers may only test those who are experiencing symptoms.

Following the press conference outside the YMCA, Reading Mayor Eddie Moran sat down in a chair while local nurses administered the COVID-19 test.

“We at Highmark are delighted to be teaming up with the commonwealth, Latino Connection and Independence Blue Cross in supporting this important service to help fight COVID 19. During this time of uncertainty, we feel this is an excellent use of our resources,” Daniel Onorato, executive vice president, chief corporate affairs officer for Highmark Health said. “We ultimately hope to touch thousands of residents through this effort.”

“We’re very excited to work with the Pennsylvania Department of Health and Latino Connection to address the need for increased COVID-19 testing in underserved communities throughout our region,” President of the Independence Blue Cross Foundation Lorina Marshall-Blake said.

“Education and testing are essential to ending the devastation of this pandemic in our communities, particularly among minorities and communities of color who have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19.”

This article is also available in: Español (Spanish)