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Lebanon County has received a $300,000 federal grant to increase its COVID-19 testing capacity.

In an interview with LebTown, Welsh Mountain Health Center CEO Jackie Concepcion said a program to launch testing will begin this Tuesday and will continue Tuesdays and Thursdays through the end of August.

Each event will offer free COVID-19 testing to county residents as well as the distribution of free masks, hand sanitizer and information packets concerning ways to limit the spread of the virus. In addition, two of the events will include the distribution of food donated by the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank, Concepcion added.

“Prior to receiving the funding, we had been in conversations with the PA Department of Health because Lebanon County has been a hot spot, especially in Lebanon city on the north side of town where there has been elevated levels of COVID-positive cases particularly among minorities,” Concepcion said. “If you remember a few weeks ago, when everyone was going yellow or green, Lebanon was being held back because it was still a hot spot.”

While two of the events will be held at the health center’s 920 Church Street location, including the one this Tuesday, the other six will be held at various locations around the city.

“We are collaborating with Latino Connection and Aetna Better Health to use their mobile unit called CORA,” Concepcion said. “Between now and the end of August, CORA will allow us to get out into the greater community. We’re opening up the testing to anyone in the community who has symptoms but also to anyone who has been in close contact with someone who is positive. We will also provide testing to anyone who believes they may have the virus.”

Concepcion said she is grateful to have access to CORA — which is short for the Spanish word corazón, or heart — to increase their testing outreach within the community.

“If people have barriers to get to our testing site, they don’t have to worry,” Concepcion said. “We’ll be able to offer testing at that very local level of where these people live thanks to CORA.”

George Fernandez, CEO, Latino Connection said his organization’s participation helps fulfill their mission to bring together members of the Latino community and his clients, including those from the healthcare industry.

“Latino Connection remains committed to the community and intentional in partnering with organizations providing valuable resources to underserved populations, especially amidst the current state of the world,” Fernandez said in a written statement. “The time is now more than ever to mobilize and improve outreach, access and increase testing in vulnerable communities, especially those areas of the state with surging COVID cases.”

Concepcion said food, which has been donated by the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank, will be distributed this Tuesday and on Tuesday, Aug. 11. Two boxes, one filled with dry goods and one with fresh produce, will be provided per car or to those who are walk-ins to the event.

“The food bank has generously donated 150 boxes of dried food and an additional 20 pounds of fresh produce,” Concepcion said. “So not only will they be getting fresh, wholesome foods, but we will be giving them free information on everything related to COVID on top of that.”

The Central Pennsylvania Food Bank has donated 150 boxes of foodstuffs to be distributed at this coming Tuesday, July 14 and Tuesday, Aug. 11. (Provided photo)

Andy Dessel, Health Innovations Manager, Central Pennsylvania Food Bank. said the food distribution is part of an ongoing effort to help people in their time of need.

“As the COVID-19 situation continues to present challenges to our neighbors, the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank understands the essential connection between access to nutritious foods and health,” Dessel said in a written statement. “The Central Pennsylvania Food Bank is proud to once again partner with the team at Welsh Mountain Health Center to help meet the health needs of the Lebanon community particularly those affected by the health and economic consequences of COVID-19. Central Pennsylvania Food Bank and Welsh Mountain are committed to ensuring that all community members have access to nutritious foods and high quality healthcare services.”

Concepcion said the testing and food distribution are part of an ongoing effort, and part of the center’s mission, to address social determinants of health, which are the economic and social conditions that influence individual and group differences in health status.

“All of our centers have social workers whose jobs are to address issues around food insecurity, housing, education needs, employment or anything that is a barrier that often prevents them from being healthy,” Concepcion said. “What we’ve found through screening our patients is that many of our clients have food insecurities.”

Read more: [Photo Story] Local leaders tour Lebanon Community Health Center

Concepcion added that food insecurity is a major issue within the Latino community and the main reason they are partnering with the food bank at two of these events.

“We’ve found that many of our patients in Lebanon have food insecurities,” Concepcion said. “We have people who don’t have enough food to get them through the month. Others are diabetic and have diet needs and when we speak to them about getting healthy and becoming more active, they tell us they don’t have enough food to make it through the month. Or, they don’t have healthy foods in their homes.”

Concepcion added that this eight-day testing program, along with the food distribution, is part of an ongoing initiative with the goal of helping people improve their health. At a previous event, the local food bank distributed 200 boxes of food to about 120 cars and to walk ups.

“All of the boxes were gone within 1.5 hours,” Concepcion said. “So there is this need, a huge need here in Lebanon County.”

“We are so pleased that local organizations are providing this clinic, at no cost, to Pennsylvanians,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said in a press release.


July 14

Testing & Food Distribution (5 p.m. to 7 p.m.)
Lebanon Community Health Center – 920 Church Street, Lebanon

July 16

Testing (1 p.m. to 3 p.m.)
Webster Manor – 1012 Brock Drive, Lebanon

July 21

Testing (5 p.m. to 7 p.m.)
River of Life Church – 825 N. 7th Street, Lebanon

July 23

Testing (5 p.m. to 7 p.m.)
Living Christian Church – 370 N. 7th Street, Lebanon

July 28

Testing (10 a.m. to 12 pm.)
Village Apartments – 201 Village Drive, Lebanon

July 30

Testing (10 a.m. to 12 p.m.)
Optimist Park – 1400 Elder Street, Lebanon

August 4

TENTATIVE Testing (5 p.m. to 7 p.m.)
St. Benedict the Abbot Church – 1300 Lehman Street, Lebanon

August 6

Testing (5 p.m. to 7 p.m.)
Lebanon Community Library – 125 N. 7th Street, Lebanon

August 11

Testing and Food Distribution (5 p.m. to 7 p.m.)
Lebanon Community Health Center – 920 Church Street, Lebanon

August 13

TENTATIVE Testing (11 a.m. to 1 p.m.)
Free Bird Chicken Plant – 2609 US 22, Fredericksburg

August 14

Testing (5 p.m. to 7 p.m.)
Walnut Street Park – 1551 Walnut Street, Lebanon

Read all of LebTown’s COVID-19 coverage here.

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This article was updated to include a quote from Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine.

James Mentzer

James Mentzer is a freelance writer whose published works include the books Pennsylvania Manufacturing: Alive and Well; Bucks County: A Snapshot in Time; United States Merchant Marine Academy: In Service to the Nation 1943-2018; A Century of Excellence: Spring Brook Country Club 1921-2021; and Lancaster...


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