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Free COVID-19 testing starts in Butler County as strike team moves in

BUTLER COUNTY, Pa. — Free COVID-19 testing is now being offered in Butler County after the Pennsylvania Department of Health announced it was sending in a strike team.

ICU beds in Butler County have been filling up as families plead for help. On Thursday, there were 144 new positive COVID-19 cases in the county -- a 49% positivity rate. Friday saw 193 new cases and three deaths.

>>RELATED STORY: ICUs have reached capacity at 2 Butler Health System hospitals

The drive-thru or walk-up testing will be offered at Michelle Krill Field at Historic Pullman Park. Testing runs from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Tuesday. No appointment is needed, but people must be at least 3 years old and are asked to have a photo ID or an insurance card.

Officials said up to 450 people can get the nasal swab test per day.

The testing in Butler County is part of efforts over the next three months in which five strike teams will provide testing to 61 Pennsylvania counties. It is being done based on the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people in a county. Specifically, they are focused on going to areas where outbreaks are happening.

Chopper 11 was over the area as hundreds of drivers waited their turn to get a free COVID-19 test. One county commissioner said the wait time was as long as two hours Friday.

Butler Health System now has some capacity after their surge plan opened up additional ICU beds.

“I’m worried about the staff in the hospital for being taxed continuously, I think that’s my biggest concern for the hospitals -- the staffing. And that is something we are keeping an eye on,” said Commissioner Kevin Boozel.

Part of the fear is that relief won’t come until there is a vaccine widely distributed