In response to rising COVID-19 cases, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health launched its own mobile COVID-19 testing truck on December 21stThe truck was leased through a partnership with Aardvark Mobile Health, a Conshohocken-based company that has provided coronavirus testing across the United States through its fleet of mobile healthcare units.  

The health department will primarily use the truck to quickly respond to small outbreaks that may occur in settings such as workplaces or schools. Because it can be driven to the source of an outbreak, the truck ensures that individuals linked to an outbreak have easy access to testing and receive guidance on preventing further spread of the virus.

When the truck isn’t responding to outbreaks, it will be used to hold community testing events in different neighborhoods each week. While COVID-19 continues to disproportionately impact certain zip codes in Philadelphia, access to testing is still unequally distributed in the city. The new testing truck will allow the city to increase testing in areas of Philadelphia hit hardest by the pandemic and with fewer testing options available.  

What does getting tested at the truck look like? 

At this time, only individuals with COVID-19 symptoms and asymptomatic individuals with prior exposure to persons with COVID-19 infection are eligible to be tested at the truck. Although individuals will be able to walk-up to the site without an appointment, they are encouraged to pre-register for testing events online. Public events and registration links are posted on the City’s social media and online COVID-19 testing calendar. The testing will not have any out-of-pocket costs and insurance information will not be collected.   

At the testing location, individuals will collect their own samples under the supervision of a trained swabbing instructor inside the truck. Through the truck’s large window, the instructor will guide individuals to collect a nasal swab, which only requires inserting a swab into each nostril and rotating the swab. This self-collection procedure minimizes any discomfort from the swabbing process.  Instructional videos and graphics will also be displayed at the test sites to ensure anyone can safely and accurately obtain their sample. 

The truck will be equipped with functional needs to accommodate individuals with disabilities. Everyone getting tested will be asked about accessibility needs at registration. Additionally, language translation services will be available on-site. 

After collecting their sample, individuals will be given instructions on how to access their results, various educational materials, and face masks. They should receive their test results within 1-3 days. 

Through this mobile testing unit and other initiatives, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health hopes to effectively control future outbreaks and increase access to testing for all Philadelphians over the course of the pandemic.