MERIDEN – Hartford HealthCare has opened COVID-19 test trailers at locations in Bridgeport, Torrington, Newington and New Britain. The network announced a trailer at MidState Medical Center in Meriden on Friday and two more sites could open as early as next week.
Dr James Cardon, HealthCare’s clinical integration manager, told reporters on Friday that the system opened a trailer at St. Vincent Hospital in Bridgeport on Friday and plans to open similar trailers at Windham Hospital, at Norwich Hospital and MidState Medical Center next week.
“Testing has become essential and limited,” Cardon said. “By next week, that will bring us seven sites in total. We do 4,000 a week. This will increase our capacity by an additional 1,000 tests per day. “
The tests are intended for symptomatic and non-symptomatic patients and by appointment only. The centers will be open seven days a week and staffed with three health workers who will supervise the self-test. They should perform 130 tests a day, Cardon said. All tests are nasal swab PCR tests.
Demand for testing has reached critical mass as the Omicron variant spreads rapidly throughout the state. Students are required to have a negative PCR result before returning to school after quarantine, and many adults are required to have the same result to return to the workplace.
Gov. Ned Lamont’s administration has distributed thousands of rapid home test kits to municipalities to help identify and isolate people who test positive for the virus, but PCR testing remains scarce and appointments are unavailable before several weeks.
Cardon said the state had offered no financial support to open the test trailers, but had requested support from state health networks to increase testing capacity.
Thousands of rapid test kits were handed out at drive-thru events in Southington, Cheshire and Wallingford this week, with an event scheduled in Meriden on Saturday.
Mayor Kevin Scarpati is asking people to arrive at or after 10 a.m. to receive two kits per car at Lincoln Midde School on Centennial Avenue or Thomas Edison Middle School on North Broad Street. Each kit has two tests and the limit of two kits per car will be strictly enforced.
Members or the Meriden Fire Department will help distribute the kits, and police will be on hand to direct traffic. The size of the parking lots should negate the need to arrive early. Approximately 3,980 kits will be distributed to approximately 995 cars at each site.
Public health staff do not attend the distribution of test kits to be in a pediatric COVID-19 vaccination clinic at Maloney High School from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. This event is open to residents aged 5 and over and no appointment is necessary.
City health officials have demanded that only people who show symptoms or who have been recently exposed to COVID-19 be tested. People are also asked to stay in their cars and have proof of residence.
“We ask people not to queue in advance,” said Scarpati.
Scarpati has been in weekly contact with officials at Hartford HealthCare regarding the need for more testing. He said on Friday that he had not heard of a specific date for a trailer to open at MidState, but that it would be good for the community.
“There is an incredible need for testing,” said Scarpati. “Especially for children returning to school and employees returning to work.”