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State positivity rate reaches record 24.55%, testing centers expand to meet demand

Joe Amon
Connecticut Public
Hartford HealthCare officials said they are expanding testing efforts at several locations, where they have installed testing trailers.

Every one in four COVID-19 tests in Connecticut is coming back positive, according to the latest state data, capping off the first week of the year with another record-high positivity rate.

Health experts say coronavirus variants like omicron and delta continue to drive the latest surge of cases and hospitalizations, although they remain optimistic that the peak of this wave of the pandemic is near.

“We still hope that our prediction of middle of January, when all this will start to decrease, holds true,” Dr. Ulysses Wu, chief of infectious disease at Hartford HealthCare, told reporters Friday.

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 infections statewide has grown to 1,810, which remains a high figure but represents a smaller increase than in previous days.

More hospital admissions have coincided with additional patients being placed in intensive care units. Wu said at Hartford HealthCare, the majority of COVID-19 patients who need ventilators are not fully vaccinated.

“There is a small percentage that are vaccinated, but not boosted,” he added, “but they have comorbidities at this point.”

Dr. Ajay Kumar, Hartford HealthCare’s chief clinical officer, said the better news continues to be that a smaller portion of all COVID-19 patients are winding up in the ICU compared with previous waves of the pandemic.

Testing expansion

COVID-19 testing demands continue to reach new heights as cities and towns try to mitigate the needs in communities by distributing at-home test kits.

Long lines and limited appointments await those looking for in-person testing. To try to expand opportunities, Hartford HealthCare officials announced Friday they will open new testing trailers at multiple sites across the state.

Dr. Jim Cardon, chief clinical integration officer, said the health system is averaging about 4,000 tests per day.

“This will increase our capacity another 1,000 [tests] a day as we go forward,” he said. “So we’d be increasing our capacity by an additional 25% as this starts.”

The health system opened a new testing trailer in Torrington on Thursday. Another one at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport opened Friday with limited hours due to the snowstorm. Cardon said appointments were quickly booked up.

“Not surprising,” he said. “Until we get these [sites] all up, I do expect there will still continue to be quite a bit of demand for the slots.”

The two sites join existing testing trailers in Newington and New Britain. Other sites will soon open in Norwich, Windham and Meriden. Cardon said each trailer will do up to 150 PCR nasal swab tests a day and will eventually operate seven days a week.

Testing at the new trailers will be by appointment only.

“That is intentional to decrease the queuing up and what we saw last year where we had just a tremendous amount of people kind of lined up and waiting in line,” Cardon said. “We’re trying to avoid that.”

Cardon said the health system will consider expanding to more hours and additional sites, based on what testing demands look like in the next couple of weeks.

Nicole Leonard joined Connecticut Public Radio to cover health care after several years of reporting for newspapers. In her native state of New Jersey, she covered medical and behavioral health care, as well as arts and culture, for The Press of Atlantic City. Her work on stories about domestic violence and childhood food insecurity won awards from the New Jersey Press Association.

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