A rise in breakthrough COVID-19 infections, the highly transmissible delta variant and the closing of mass testing sites has led to greater demand for COVID-19 testing and long waits at walk-in centers and clinics.
Patients shouldn’t expect walk-ins or same-day appointments any more. Appointments for PCR testing at pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens are now one or two days out, and patients should expect to travel. Harford HealthCare’s Go Health Centers are requesting appointments at least a day in advance or patients risk a long wait.
There are about 309 COVID testing sites throughout the state. The state Department of Public Health now operates 12 testing sites, and demand has led to plans to open more sites, including one in Meriden, said DPH spokesman Christopher Boyle. A site is expected to open in a parking lot at 13 Orange St. in Meriden the week of Sept. 13. Details are still being finalized.
At the state-sponsored sites patients will be asked for insurance information, however there is no cost or out of pocket expense for the person.
Most schools, airlines and workplaces will only accept the PCR tests as opposed to the rapid test.
The Community Health Center is only testing its patients since closing on-site testing centers on July 1.
“We’re not seeing nearly the volumes we were seeing when we had the mass drive-through testing, but our numbers have been slowly trending upwards since the beginning of July,” said Stephanie Ivers Heine, senior communications manager for Community Health Centers Inc. “Providers consistently say they are seeing an increased need for testing.”
According to DPH, testing sites were reporting as many as 35,000 tests over the four weekends in June. After the vaccines were introduced, that number dropped below 20,000 in July but began climbing again to above 47,000 the final weekend in August.
Several causes are contributing to the rise in demand: Schools reopening, the delta variant, work requirements, travel and COVID outbreaks among the vaccinated and unvaccinated.
According to 211 Infoline, 5.9 percent of all calls in the past 90 days were requests for information on COVID-19 testing sites. In the past 30 days, 8.4 percent of calls were about testing sites.
“Once the vaccines became available, testing took a backseat,” said Michael Rohde, community liaison for Community Health Center Inc. “Now, things are flipping. All of a sudden there is a new need that has popped up.”
Meriden Health and Human Services Director Lea Crown said the department doesn’t do testing but refers all requests to the 211 Infoline.
“Here, they can put in their zip code and search for a local testing site,” Crown said. “They also recommend that individuals call before they go so they can get answers to questions such as insurance, turnaround time for testing, and type of test done.”
Testing demand is up throughout the U.S. as the delta variant continues to spread. Health officials expect demand to continue through the fall, according to media reports.