There will soon be more COVID-19 testing available to residents of Connecticut. Healthcare systems across the state are now working with private labs to run tests.
More clinical laboratories, like Quest Diagnostics and LabCorp, have been issued Emergency Use Authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to conduct COVID-19 diagnostic testing. This opens up testing for a wider group of symptomatic patients than the State Department of Public Health laboratory in Rocky Hill has been able to handle.
The state's lab has limited capacity, leaving patients prioritized for testing based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to include:
- Hospitalized patients who have symptoms of COVID-19
- People who are at higher risk for COVID-19, older adults and people living with chronic illnesses, who are showing symptoms of the coronavirus
- People who have been in close contact with a lab-confirmed COVID-19 patient
The Regional Medical Director for Emergency Medicine at Lawrence and Memorial Hospital in New London, Craig Mittleman, said they have had some people come into the hospital who presented with very mild symptoms of COVID-19 who they could not run tests for.
"We were really concerned and we wanted to preserve testing for our most vulnerable patients," said Mittleman. "We are having families that show up with very mild symptoms or no symptoms at all that we are not routinely testing."
Now that clinical labs are receiving emergency use authorization for testing, healthcare providers are setting up drive through testing sites to handle larger volumes of patients. Patients have to be referred by a doctor and receive an appointment time to be tested at many drive-through sites.
Yale New Haven Health will launch a drive through testing site at Lawrence and Memorial Hospital in New London Tuesday morning. People can only get tested if they are referred by a doctor and have an appointment.
"The primary care provider can actually send and fax a request and then appointments are being made," explained Mittleman.
The team at L&M Hospital started putting plans for a drive-through site into place Thursday afternoon and received approval from the CT DPH Monday. While there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New London County (as of Monday afternoon), the L&M team believe there likely are cases in the community that have gone undetected because of lack of testing.
"Without testing, you just don't know you have in the community," said Ronald Kersey, Emergency Management Coordinator for L&M. "This will help us contain the spread of the disease."
Mittleman said that Yale New Haven Health will be opening several sites across the healthcare system and they already have a specimen collection site up and running in Greenwich.
Anyone experiencing symptoms including coughing, fever and shortness of breath is encouraged to call their primary care provider.
As of Monday, the following hospitals were approved for drive-through testing, according to a release from the governor's office:
The governor noted that drive-through testing has been approved at seven Connecticut hospitals, but only for those who have a prescription for the test from their doctor and make an appointment in advance. Those hospitals are:
- Bridgeport Hospital
- Backus Hospital, 326 Washington St., Norwich, Lot 3, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week, starting March 20. Bristol Health -- this is closed on Tuesday because of weather.
- Danbury Hospital
- Greenwich Hospital
- Saint Francis Hospital -- 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., seven days a week
- Saint Mary's Hospital, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., seven days a week
- Stamford Health
- Waterbury Hospital
- Yale-New Haven Hospital
Hartford HealthCare will also be opening drive-through sites. The first opened today in Hartford at 560 Street at Hartford Hospital. According to a press release from Hartford HealthCare, sites will open at the following locations:
- Hartford Hospital (Starting March 16)
- Charlotte Hungerford Hospital (Starting March 18)
- MidState Medical Center Starting (Starting March 18)
- St. Vincent’s Medical Center (Starting March 18)
- Backus Hospital (Starting March 19)
In order to be tested at the Hartford HealthCare facilities, patients must have a referral from a provider through Hartford HealthCare Medical Group or an order through a virtual health visit done by a physician at the Hartford HealthCare’s Clinical Command Center. The number for the command center is 860-972-8100.
According to healthcare leaders at both Hartford HealthCare and Yale New Haven Health, drive through tests take less than five minutes. The test is conducted in open-air areas and clinicians wear protective gear to prevent the spread of the virus. Swabs are sent off to a lab for testing and results can be expected within four to five days.
For more information on COVID-19, you can visit the state's website here or call the state's 2-1-1 hotline.