With coronavirus cases spiking across Connecticut and New England, demand for testing has increased across the state.
While the wait for those without an appointment before Thanksgiving reached several hours, those trying to make one were told they’d have to wait days. Now, those wait times have come down in many locations and residents are encouraged to get tested.
“The whole idea is to test people rapidly at the time when they’re getting onset of symptoms, so that they know that they have COVID, so they can stay home,” explained Dr. Albert Ko of the Yale School of Medicine. “If it’s taking two, three, four days to get an appointment that defeats the purpose of testing in terms of reducing the risk of transmission.”
Wait times at Hartford HealthCare's testing locations are reflecting many waits only five to 30 minutes long.
“Today there is unprecedented demand for testing,” said Jeffery Flaks, Hartford HealthCare CEO said ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.
Full coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak and how it impacts you
Josh Geballe, who helps lead Connecticut’s pandemic response, said working with its partners, the state’s increased the number of testing sites by 33% in the last two weeks of November. He said that they’re also in talks with the state’s largest cities to add more testing sites with large capacities.
“To continue to expand their hours of operation, add more lanes, add more staff, add advanced scheduling capabilities where it may not exist, deploy the National Guard resources to help where there may be some staffing shortages, so we’re working very hard to address those lines,” Geballe explained.
Testing sites are currently set up around Connecticut at health centers and hospitals, the Connecticut Convention Center, Rentschler Field and a number of other locations, with a drive-through site at Bradley Airport now open as well.
Some locations offer rapid tests while others require a wait of usually at least 24 hours. Some places, like the CVS Pharmacy Minute Clinic drive throughs, require appointments while others do not.
COVID-19 Testing Resources
- The state of Connecticut has a COVID-19 testing locator at 211ct.org
- Community Health Center testing locations (including Rentschler Field, WestConnn and Brass Mill Center Mall) - walk up or drive through; appointment not required
- CVS Minute Clinic COVID-19 testing - antigen and PCR tests available; appointment required
- CVS Community Testing Site at Arroyo Recreation Center on Pope Park Drive in Hartford - call 860-757-9311 to schedule your test; no vehicle necessary
- Hartford HealthCare COVID-19 testing locations, including the Connecticut Covention Center, Dodd Stadium, and others in Bridgeport, Meriden, Newington, Torrington, Westport and Willimantic - drive-up testing
- Trinity Health of New England Drive-Through testing at Johnson Memorial, Saint Francis and Saint Mary's Hospital
- Yale New Haven Health testing information and YNHH appointment site, including location at Mohegan Sun
- American Family Care Urgent Care West Hartford testing
- GoHealth Urgent Care centers
- Walgreens COVID-19 testing information
Frequently Asked Questions From the State
The below is an FAQ directly from the state of Connecticut's coronavirus website:
1. Who should get tested for COVID-19? If you are experiencing any symptoms that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified for COVID-19, you need to get tested.
- What are the symptoms of COVID-19? People with COVID-19 can have mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms can appear two to 14 days after being exposed to the virus. Symptoms can include: cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fever or chills, muscle or body aches, sore throat, headache, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, runny nose or stuffy nose, fatigue, recent loss of taste or smell. Children have similar symptoms to adults and generally have mild illness.
- In certain situations, it is recommended that you to be tested if you do not have symptoms if you are a health care worker, first responder, congregate care facility resident or staff (includes nursing homes, assisted living facilities, managed residential communities, correctional institutions), homeless, or living in communities at high risk. Some of these situations include being exposed to someone with COVID-19 without adequate protection or detection of asymptomatic spread during an outbreak.
- There is no state requirement that asymptomatic individuals who have not been in contact with a known case of COVID be tested. However, some employers may be providing testing to their employees, or may request that you be tested.
- Remember that anyone with symptoms of COVID infection should get tested.
- If you are contacted by a public health professional or contact tracer and told that you have been in contact with a known case of COVID-19, you should be tested. The public health professional will help you identify a location for testing in your area or you can call 211 for the latest information on testing locations near you.
- These recommendations may evolve as the science of this pandemic becomes more clear, as the situation in CT evolves, and as testing becomes more widely available.
2. What type of test should I get for COVID-19?
- There are three types of tests available for COVID-19: nucleic acid (PCR test) and antigen (rapid) tests are used to diagnose a person with current infection with the SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and an antibody test that helps determine if someone was infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the past.
- If you are having symptoms for COVID-19, or are not sick but have had unprotected prolonged close contact with someone with COVID-19, you should have a nucleic acid (PCR) diagnostic test.
3. How do I get tested for COVID-19?
- If you think you have COVID-19 and feel like you have symptoms, you should first call your primary care provider to talk about your symptoms. Many primary care providers are set up to test their patients on site.
- Drive-up and walk-up testing is available at some acute care hospitals, urgent care centers, community health centers and certain pharmacy based testing sites. You can find a test by visiting ct.gov/coronavirus, typing your zip code into the box that says "Find a Testing Site Near You" and clicking "GO".
4. I don’t have a primary care provider. Does that mean I can’t get tested?
- If you don’t have a primary care provider, you can still get tested for COVID-19. There are places like community health centers across the state that can administer a test and may be taking new patients for other medical care. The community health centers offer on-site health evaluations as well as on-site COVID-19 testing. You can find a test by visiting ct.gov/coronavirus, typing your zip code into the box that says "Find a Testing Site Near You" and clicking "GO".
- You can also find a testing site that will offer you a test for free, regardless of whether or not you have insurance, and regardless of documentation status. Locate a testing site at ct.gov/prioritytesting.
5. I’ve heard that there are walk-up COVID-19 testing sites. Is this true?
- Yes. There are many walk-up testing sites available in Connecticut.
- You can find a test by visiting ct.gov/coronavirus, typing your zip code into the box that says "Find a Testing Site Near You" and clicking "GO". The testing site listings will include availability of walk-up testing.
6. What will I be charged for a COVID-19 test?
- For those with symptoms of COVID-19, private insurance carriers and the state’s HUSKY Health Program will not charge out-of-pocket costs for COVID-19 testing.
- The state Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance programs, known as HUSKY Health, are covering all costs for testing. Any individual enrolled in a HUSKY Health plan will not pay out of pocket costs. In addition, HUSKY Health is now covering COVID-19 testing for uninsured Connecticut residents who are U.S. citizens or have a qualifying immigration status, regardless of income; and covering COVID-19 testing for residents without a qualifying immigration status if they meet HUSKY income requirements and have COVID-19 symptoms.
- If you do not have symptoms of COVID-19, a doctor's order for a test, or do not live in an area where your local public health authority has recommended everyone get tested - you may incur a charge, and should talk with your insurance company.
7. Can I get tested for COVID-19 if I don’t have health insurance?
- You can find a testing site that will offer you a test for free, regardless of whether or not you have insurance, and regardless of documentation status. Locate a testing site at ct.gov/prioritytesting.
8. How can I get a COVID-19 test quickly?
- If you need to get a COVID-19 test quickly, CVS Health is offering free rapid testing at Samuel V. Arroyo Recreation Center in Hartford. Please call Hartford 311 at 860-757-9311 to schedule an appointment and pre-register. The rapid testing site will not test people who do not have an appointment or who do not meet the testing criteria.
9. How long will I have to wait to get the results of my COVID-19 test?
- PCR tests done at other hospital, community health center, and pharmacy sites will come back in approximately 24-48 hours.
- If you have symptoms, or believe you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, it is very important to stay at home and isolate yourself to avoid spreading your symptoms to others while you are waiting for test results.
10. What should I do while I am waiting for my test results?
- If you have been in contact with someone with COVID-19, you should stay home and away from others for 14 days after your last contact with that person.
- If you have a fever, cough or other symptoms of COVID-19, you should stay home and away from others (except to get medical care).
- If you are not sick with symptoms of COVID-19 and you cannot stay home while you wait for your test results, you should wear a mask when out in public and avoid gatherings with people who are not in your immediate household, are over 65 years old, or have medical conditions that place them at increased risk for COVID-19.
Learn more about what you should do while you're waiting for your result, review 3 Key Steps to Take While Waiting for Your COVID-19 Test Result.
11. What happens if I test positive?
- If you test positive - stay home, wear a mask within 6 feet of others in your home, and wash your hands frequently.
- Someone from the Connecticut Department of Public Health or your local health department will call you to check on your health, and ask you for a list of people you have had close contact with while you were sick or just before you got sick.
- A contact tracer will only contact you for health matters related to COVID-19 and not for any other reason - your information will remain confidential.
- Contact tracers are also able to connect you with resources you may need to self isolate like food, housing, childcare, and unemployment insurance.
- You can leave your home if these two things have happened:
- You must have had no fever for 72 hours (three days) without the use of fever reducing medications, and your respiratory symptoms (cough, shortness of breath) must be getting better; and
- At least 10 days have passed since your symptoms first appeared.
- If you had no symptoms but tested positive, you should stay home until 10 days after your positive test.
- If any of your symptoms get worse, call your healthcare provider.
12. What happens if I test negative?
- If you start having any symptoms of COVID-19 after the test, call your healthcare provider and ask if you should be tested again. Wash your hands often and practice social distancing (six feet between you and other people).
- Wear a cloth face covering when you leave your house.
- If you get sick, stay home from work.
- Clean “high-touch” surfaces” (doorknobs, railings, phones, counters, faucet handles) every day.
- If you test negative for COVID-19, you most likely were not infected at the time of your test. It is also possible that you were tested very early in your infection and you could test positive later. It is also possible you could be exposed later and get sick. This means that even with a negative test, it is important for healthcare workers and others who work with vulnerable populations to stay home from work while experiencing any symptoms.
13. Why isn’t the state testing everyone in Connecticut?
- Testing is an important part of our pandemic response, but it is not the only part. Other behaviors – wearing a mask, hand washing, social distancing, and cleaning – are equally important tools.
- Testing people who have COVID-19 symptoms is still critical.
- For people without symptoms, we are focused on testing people in areas hit hardest by the virus. We are also offering testing to people working in close-contact environments. This will help us monitor the virus and identify places that need support from the health department.