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Philadelphia City Hall on April 19, 2022.

Credit: Jesse Zhang

As of May 20, Philadelphia’s Department of Public Health is providing free rapid covid tests to event organizers through an online application process.

The Department of Public Health advises event organizers to apply for tests two weeks prior to the event. It is possible that not every application will receive testing kits, as there is a limited supply and the city is prioritizing providing tests to the highest risk settings. The Department of Public Health is prioritizing giving covid tests to events that are hosted by or include communities that have historically had less access to healthcare resources, include a high number of attendees who are at risk, and that present a high risk for covid transmission such as indoor events.

If a host’s event is approved to receive tests, Health Department staff will reach out via email to confirm a time for event organizers to pick tests up. The city will provide two tests per guest. Recipients can use them whenever, however, the Department of Public Health advises attendees to use the first test immediately before attending an event, and the second three to five days after the event.

“The health department is concerned about any event when large groups get together where masking can be lax,” said Department of Public Health spokesperson Matthew Rankin to the Philadelphia Voice. With covid cases rising in Philadelphia, the city decided that giving free tests would lead to safer gatherings.

Free testing means that events such as weddings, funerals, graduation parties, community festivals, live music events, and plays, no longer have to shoulder the burden of providing COVID tests for attendees. On the application, event organizers can also request surgical masks and test-kit, further reducing possible costs for event organizers.

COVID tests typically cost $7-14 dollars, with one taken before the event and one after –meaning an event organizer planning for 100 attendees would need to budget at least $2,800 for their event if they wanted to provide a COVID test for every attendee.

Over the past two weeks Philadelphia saw an 7% increase in covid cases and covid related deaths more than doubled. This increase in cases is mirrored within the Penn community, where there was slightly less than a 2% increase in positivity rate over the past three weeks. The Department of Public Health is providing the free tests to help mitigate the spread of covid.