An increase in demand for coronavirus testing in advance of Thanksgiving has led to hourslong lines across Connecticut as providers scramble to add capacity and hire new workers.
Leslie Gianelli, a spokesperson for Community Health Center, Inc. which operates 15 testing sites across the state, said the wait time at those facilities on Thursday was over two hours.
Similar waits were being reported by Hartford HealthCare at its eight sites.
“We are adding staff and adding sites and adding hours to try and keep up with the increase in demand,” Gianelli said.
Gianelli said they are currently trying to hire about 100 additional workers, from administrative support to nurses who can administer the tests.
Capt. Dave Pytlik, a spokesperson for the Connecticut National Guard, said they have deployed about 50 Guard soldiers and airmen to help at testing sites.
“Sometimes that's administrative support, sometimes that's processing the samples, sometimes that's actually doing the swabs,” he said.
Hartford HealthCare said it is testing between 30,000 and 40,000 this week at its eight sites. It plans to open a new drive-thru center at Bradley International Airport on Monday and recently moved its center in Norwich to Dodd Stadium to increase testing capacity.
He said that system is giving testing priority during the first few hours each day those who are scheduled to undergo medical procedures.
“We certainly don't see any decrease in the testing that we are going to need,” said Dr. James Cardon, who runs Hartford HealthCare's testing program. “We appreciate everybody's patience, but we understand this is difficult. But we have a singular focus on trying to improve so that people aren't disrupted as much as they are currently.”
Wednesday's report from Gov. Ned Lamont's office showed 34,135 tests conducted, with 2,042 positive tests reported.
Gianelli said it still takes between two and three days to receive test results from a standard nasal-swab test, though labs also are experiencing a surge in work.
Connecticut’s seven-day rolling average positivity rate has risen over the past two weeks from 3.55% on Nov. 3 to 5.35% on Tuesday.
State health departments are calculating positivity rate differently across the country, but for Connecticut the AP calculates the rate by dividing new cases by test specimens using data from The COVID Tracking Project.
Dr. Ajay Kumar, Hartford HealthCare's chief clinical officer, said he and other state medical experts expect the current surge in coronavirus cases to peak in late December.
“In terms of hospitalizations, we will be just below what we were (in the spring),” he said. “We will be reaching around 1,500 to 1,600 patients at some point in the state of Connecticut."
In other coronavirus related news:
Lawrence + Memorial Hospital has been fined $15,422 by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration for problems it found after the coronavirus-related death of a nurse's aid.
Elva Graveline died on May 19 of complications from COVID-19.
OSHA said it found violations including a failure by the hospital to establish and implement a written respiratory protection program for workers.
Fiona Phelan, a spokesperson for the New London hospital, said the OSHA report does not indicate there was any lack of appropriate personal protective equipment for staff and the hospital takes issue with being cited for not having a written policy in May.
“Given the unprecedented nature of the virus, we are unaware of any hospitals that carried such protocols at the onset of this pandemic,“ she said in a statement. ”Our top priority is to protect our patients and staff and as such, our protocols have always followed guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as that of the experts within our Health System.”