Homeless shelter directors are hoping free, on-site Covid-19 testing will return to their centers in light of the delta variant. It was a resource they had through the pandemic up until about a month ago, and they say it's critical in preventing a potential outbreak.
“Now we’re back to square one,” Nichelle Hilton, director of Shelter NOW in Meriden said.
It was available Covid-19 testing that gave homeless shelters like Shelter NOW in Meriden reassurance throughout the pandemic.
“That was giving my staff some type of ease and the shelter guests as well,” Hilton said.
Hilton said the on-site testing provided by Community Health Center was funded by the state but she says on June 30 that funding and testing stopped. Hilton worries now the delta variant could cause serious consequences at her center without routine testing in the congregate setting.
“Where do you get tested? How long does it take? Do you have to register? Do you have to have insurance? Do you have to pay for it? These are all answers that I need,” Hilton said.
Hilton said the funding also provided alternative accommodations if a guest tested positive.
“Before we had something set up with isolation, they went to the hotel. Now where do we go from here? Are they going to set that up again? What are we do?” Hilton asked.
“It was reassurance that we weren’t coming into contact with someone,” Jane Colbrook said.
Shelter guests like Colbook said the regular testing provided relief. Out of the 30 shelter guests, just 12 like Colbook are vaccinated.
“Obviously we use the same bathrooms and the same facilities for lunch and dinner. That made it a little bit easier to feel safe within our surroundings,” Colbrook said.
“This is crucial that we really reinstate the free access to testing,” Dr. Marwan Haddad, medical director for the Center for Key Populations at CHC said.
Haddad said between the testing and isolation protocols, Connecticut homeless shelters were able to contain Covid-19, but he said the situation could become volatile with the delta variant.
“We could avoid another disaster if we are able to put back the same things that we did initially,” Haddad said.
NBC Connecticut asked the state Department of Public Health about bringing free testing back to homeless shelters in light of the Delta variant but have yet to hear back.