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Connecticut to Use Rapid COVID-19 Tests in Schools

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Gov. Ned Lamont said Connecticut expects to receive about 1 million new rapid tests for COVID-19 from the federal government and will use them to help make sure schools stay open.

Lamont said the state is expecting to receive 69,000 of the tests next week. They also will be used in settings such as nursing homes, day care centers, prisons and for the state’s rapid-response team to deal with any virus outbreaks, he said.

“It compliments all the testing we’re doing right now — the PCR testing in nursing homes, vulnerable populations,” Lamont said. “It’s just one more arrow in our quiver.”

The tests will come from a previously announced national supply of 150 million ordered from Abbott Laboratories. The company’s rapid test, the size of a credit card, is the first that does not require specialty computer equipment to process. It delivers results in about 15 minutes.

Lamont said the tests can be given to students and teachers who may have symptoms or may have come in contact with the virus, eliminating the need for them to quarantine or for their schools to close.

The governor said the tests could also be used by athletic teams to prevent the further cancellation of high school sports seasons.

But Josh Geballe, Lamont’s chief operating officer, said the state will be strategic in rolling out the tests.

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“If you think about 600,000 teachers and students across the state, we can go through these fairly quickly,” he said.

United Airlines will soon become the first U.S. airline to offer rapid Covid-19 testing, starting next month with a pilot program for passengers flying to Hawaii from San Francisco International Airport before gradually rolling out more widely.

The governor also announced that Connecticut will be using a new contact tracing telephone app developed by Google and Apple. The program will keep track of who comes in close contact with the phone and notify those people automatically should the user be diagnosed with COVID-19.

This online track and trace will roll out over the next 30 days, along with programs in New York and New Jersey. It should be able to notify the user almost in real-time whether they've been in contact with anyone who tested positive, Lamont said.

Lamont said the companies are taking privacy concerns into consideration and promised the data would be anonymous and not used for any other purpose.

“Anonymity is really important,” Lamont said. “Because it’s not simply a matter of this being available, it is 10 times more effective if 10 times more people feel comfortable having this app on their smart phone.”

Geballe said you will be able to opt in or out. If you opt in, Google or Apple will track who you have been in close contact with. If someone tests positive they will receive a key to put in their phone, and then the app will notify others. The data is collected anonymously and there is no location tracking, Geballe explained.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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