Last week the state of Connecticut tested 29,000 individuals for COVID-19 and is expecting to surpass a benchmark next week of 42,000 weekly tests, just in time for phase one of the state’s reopening.
“Testing is a key metric and I think you’re going to see that we are getting there,” said Governor Ned Lamont at Tuesday’s press conference. “We are going to hit 42,000 tests a week by next week and well over 100,000 a week by June.”
With testing in place and more than 20 consecutive days of declining hospitalizations statewide, Lamont assured residents that Connecticut is not one of the states that the federal government is worried about opening too quickly.
“Dr. Fauci is talking about states that aren’t paying attention to the federal metrics,” Lamont said. “We are following those metrics very carefully, we are not being premature on this.”
Testing has increased quickly this month due to a partnership of Yale-New Haven Health, Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine and the State of Connecticut announced by the governor on Tuesday.
Yale-New Haven Health and Jackson Laboratory were the first two bids accepted in response to the Governor’s request for proposals to help increase statewide testing.
“We received 20 bids and these are just the first two that got across finish line,” said Josh Geballe, the chief operating officer for the State. “There will be more that get a contract.”
Through the partnership, Yale-New Haven has pledged to increase testing at their sites to 5,000 per day by the end of May, 10,000 by the end of June and 20,000 by the end of the summer. Jackson Lab pledged to increase testing to 20,000 tests by the end of July.
The increase in testing includes a focus on testing those who live and work in nursing homes. The goal is to have every resident and staff member tested by the end of May, Geballe said.
“As we bring on more capacity we are able to test more and more populations. We’re focused on our correctional facilities, on our first responders, the circle of people we can test and test more frequently will continue to ramp up,” Geballe said.
In June, the goal is to retest those individuals and start testing those in assisted living and older adult communities.
In addition to testing, the state is working to implement a contact tracing system to help identify hot spots expected to arise during the reopening. The system will involve calling all those who may have been in contact with an individual who tests positive with COVID-19.
“Contact tracing will be fully implemented when we come down the slope,” Geballe said. In other words, contact tracing will be in place and most effective once the number of hospitalizations and positive cases per day has declined significantly from the peak reached more than two weeks ago. “Then we will be able to cover every single positive case and prevent future outbreaks.”
Although the Microsoft platform is already operating, the statewide contact tracing system will not be fully staffed at the start of phase one on May 20. However, Geballe said he expects the system to have trained between 300 and 500 additional volunteers in order to adequately perform the job by the end of June – potentially the start of the second phase.
Lamont said he expects these programs, including as many as 100,000 daily tests, to stick around until there is a better solution, a vaccine.