coronavirus in connecticut

Trouble on Takeoff: Airport COVID-19 Testing Popular, But Not Without Growing Pains

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The Connecticut Airport Authority announced enhancements to its popular onsite COVID-19 testing program at Bradley International Airport.

The CAA wants to encourage more air travel by giving passengers coming from out-of-state a new, convenient way to avoid a 14-day quarantine when they arrive in Connecticut.

At the same time, NBC Connecticut Investigates has learned the company conducting the testing has been going through growing pains that have inconvenienced passengers.

Stuart Korchin said he is still angry about the fact he got tested for COVID-19 at Bradley International Airport when he returned home from Canada, and it took seven days to find out his test results.

He said he got the results only after multiple phone calls and emails, including some by NBC Connecticut Investigates.

 “I took the test, and they said my results would be ready in 24 to 48 hours.  What’s the point of taking the test if you don’t get results?” Korchin said.

It turned out the lab the CAA signed up to do the testing had a machine breakdown, causing testing delays.

Genesys Diagnostics of Montville said it had to retest thousands of samples, a majority from long-term care facilities.

It sparked an investigation by the Connecticut Department of Public Health that is still pending. The DPH said the lab is cooperating.

Genesys, which declined multiple on camera interview requests, told NBC Connecticut Investigates itwas the one that told the state about the breakdown of a piece of equipment called a DNA extractor, something it said is relatively common.  Genesys added that after retesting all the COVID-19 samples, almost all the results were the same, and the issue has been corrected.

“We knew there were going to be growing pains to this.  And this is a complex undertaking.  You really don’t know from day one what the flow is going to be, what the demand is going to be.  We have seen that this area is oversubscribed,”said CAA Executive Director Kevin Dillon.

Since this initial hiccup, the CAA has had to walk back what was said in its September 30 news release, that COVID-19 “…results will be available within 24 hours of testing.” 

“While we endeavor to try to get those results in some cases 24 to 48 hours, we can only say that most samples come within 72 hours but there is no guarantee”, Dillon explained.

Dillon blamed high demand for the service.

Travelers getting the testing give Genesys only basic information so the sample can be traced back.

The CAA is not paying Genesys for the testing. It makes money on what it charges travelers.

“We’re simply making space available for Genesys to offer the service,” Dillon said.

Genesys has a no-bid contract for the Bradley testing, something permitted by the state during the pandemic. Qualifying factors included being a government certified lab, and availability.

“Out of all of the labs we have spoken to, they’re the only lab that’s willing to commit to have the hours of coverage that they’re providing here at the airport,” Dillon said.

Hours of operation though, were another issue Genesys had during its initial rollout.

Joel Garcia reached out to NBC Connecticut Investigates when he said he landed just after midnight from Chicago and was turned away by the testing center. The center was supposed to be opened until 12:30 a.m.

“What they were saying was that on Mondays they close at midnight, that that’s one of their procedures, that’s just how it is…They kind of just made it seem like they were closing early because they were done for the night,” Garcia said.

Genesys acknowledged to NBC Connecticut Investigates it made an error, and has added staff, saying problems like this won’t happen again. 

The Connecticut Airport Authority, which wants to expand testing even further at Bradley, says it is watching how Genesys does.

“It’s like anyone that we do business with. We constantly monitor their performance,” Dillon said.

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