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As Connecticut Reopens, State Officials Back Away From COVID-19 Testing Goal

Ryan Caron King
Connecticut Public
A member of the Connecticut National Guard directs traffic at a COVID-19 rapid testing center in New Haven in April.

Connecticut has been running more COVID-19 tests in recent weeks, but the state’s testing volume is still far short of Gov. Ned Lamont’s goal for Phase 2 of Connecticut’s reopening, which is scheduled for Wednesday.

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Lamont had said he wanted the state running about 100,000 weekly COVID-19 tests by Phase 2 of his reopening process on June 17. Right now, the state's running about half that, and daily testing averages haven’t grown significantly in weeks.

Speaking on Connecticut Public Radio’s Where We Live Tuesday, Josh Geballe, the governor’s chief operating officer, said that changing guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and new information about the virus’s spread have resulted in the state adjusting that goal. 

He also said money was a factor.

“Candidly, there’s the financial realities of this as well,” Geballe said. “Testing is not free and we know we’re going to be testing for quite some time to come until we can really put COVID behind us.”

Over the last week, Connecticut conducted an average of about 7,000 daily COVID-19 tests.

Max Reiss, Lamont’s director of communications, said Wednesday  the state has contracted with seven vendors for COVID-19 testing: Jackson Labs, Gensys, Hartford HealthCare, Sema4, Yale New Haven Health, PhysicianOne Urgent Care, and Quest.

Reiss said the average cost for each test and its associated lab work across all six contracts is $117. 

The exact amount each vendor is charging the state per test was redacted from contracts obtained by Connecticut Public Radio, but purchase orders from the state indicate Connecticut officials have already budgeted more than $50 million for COVID-19 testing. 

Right now, it’s unclear how much of that the federal government will reimburse. And while the Trump administration has said COVID-19 testing for people with health plans is free and state officials have encouraged people to get tested regardless of their insurance status, NPR reports insurance companies are now balking at some of those testing costs

Reiss said in an email Tuesday that the state’s testing goal is to get “everyone tested who has even mild symptoms of COVID-19, and to make sure priority individuals and groups receive consistent testing.”

“Those groups include high-risk individuals who live in more densely populated areas, those who live in congregate living settings like nursing homes and correction facilities, and front-line health care workers and first responders,” Reiss said. “Additionally, anyone who has been in contact with someone who is confirmed positive for having COVID-19 should get tested.”

This story has been updated to reflect an additional vendor released to Connecticut Public Radio by the governor's office on Wednesday.

Patrick Skahill is a reporter and digital editor at Connecticut Public. Prior to becoming a reporter, he was the founding producer of Connecticut Public Radio's The Colin McEnroe Show, which began in 2009. Patrick's reporting has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, Here & Now, and All Things Considered. He has also reported for the Marketplace Morning Report. He can be reached at pskahill@ctpublic.org.

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