Sherry Wylie waited in line at Dodd Stadium in Norwich for hours on Monday, desperate to get tested for COVID-19 after missing days of work.
"I have been trying since Wednesday," said Wylie, a Norwich resident. "It is very frustrating because I can't go back to work until I have it."
Wylie said she tried to get tested last week, but could not find a site that had availability. Not wanting to risk being turned away, she showed up to the state-sponsored testing site in Norwich more than two hours before it was scheduled to open.
"I brought my laptop and snacks," said Wylie.
She is not alone.
"We are hearing that folks are showing up to the state-supported sites as early as three hours in advance and, in many cases, they are closing the clinics shortly after they open," said Patrick McCormack, director of health for the Uncas Health District.
The Uncas Health District is the local health district for 11 municipalities in eastern Connecticut, including Norwich. McCormack said his team understands that limited access to COVID-19 testing, in the region and across the state, has left people feeling frustrated.
"We are asking them to bear with us," said McCormack.
Mayor Peter Nystrom said he is hoping that the state can open additional testing sites in Norwich to help expand capacity and ease access. City officials have already identified three potential locations.
"We'd like to have sites strategically placed around this area, particularly the downtown," said Nystrom. "We are trying to get them to see that we need additional testing sites here. Not everybody has a car. Dodd stadium is not accessible to any great degree."
In New London, Mayor Michael Passero said his team is also working on bringing more testing to the area. Some relief may be coming soon. A spokesperson for Community Health Center of New London said they know the need in the city is great and they are hopeful to be able to resume testing in the community.
"We are getting this done. Part of it is just that the testing companies can't really manage and turn around those results quick enough right now," said Passero. "Hopefully that log jam may be braking up and we will be able to deliver this service to our residents very shortly."
Additionally, Passero said that Ledge Light Health District is working with the state to expand capacity at their sites. LLHD covers nine municipalities in the New London region. They oversee weekly testing sites in Groton, New London, Stonington and Waterford that have continually reached capacity in recent weeks.
The governor's office said they are seeing an unprecedented demand for testing statewide. They are working to add capacity and expand hours at state testing sites.
The Dodd Stadium site in Norwich is now open for an extra day, Sunday, expanding the site to five days a week. The lab still has a limited number of tests they are able to administer at the site on a daily basis.
"It's the number of tests they can bring with them and the lab capacity. So they are trying through that chain to make sure they don't bottleneck it by having too many tests," said McCormack.
With expanded hours at various state sites and the wide distribution of at-home COVID tests, Uncas HD is hoping that the long lines will start to ease up.
"Hopefully that will reduce the need for those who are getting tested at the sites," said McCormack.
In the meantime, Uncas HD and Ledge Light HD are both reporting a spike in case numbers.
"If you are symptomatic, please stay home," said McCormack. "Don't go to work or school if you are symptomatic."
Extreme cold temperatures are affecting COVID testing. Based on frigid temperatures forecasted for this week, the following testing sites in southeastern CT are canceled:
- Tuesday, Jan 11, 2 p.m. - 6 p.m. City of Groton Municipal Building
- Tuesday, Jan 11, 3p.m. - 7 p.m. Dodd Stadium in Norwich
- Wednesday, Jan 12, 8 a.m. - 11 a.m. Crystal Mall in Waterford