MERIDEN — The city will host a series of three COVID-19 test kit giveaways starting on Tuesday. Anyone who stops by the Health and Human Services Department, 165 Miller St., will receive one iHealth COVID test, 10 surgical masks and one digital thermometer at no cost.
The giveaway is designed to address the rising number of cases, says Lea Crown, director of health and human services.
"In the past week, we've seen an uptick in lab-confirmed [COVID] cases. Those are the only cases that we know about," she said.
The giveway runs from 4:30 to 6 p.m. on July 12, 19, and 26 at 165 Miller St.
According to the local department's weekly COVID report, 81 confirmed and probable cases have occurred this month in Meriden, while in the past week, new cases increased 12% over the previous week, according to the state Department of Public Health. Since the pandemic began, 17,522 Meriden residents have contracted the virus and 222 have died.
"We're still in a pandemic," said Crown. "Unfortunately, people are still contracting COVID. People are still getting very ill from COVID and people are still being hospitalized from the illness."
People who cannot come to an event due to a disability or who are homebound can call to arrange a drop-off. In addition, those unable to stop by due to a time conflict can still pick up free kits in the building's lobby or coordinate to have a kit set aside for a later pickup.
The Health and Human Services Department decided to re-start giveaways because they have a surplus of COVID items from the state. Crown said the city has 30,000 surgical masks, 1,000 thermometers and 1,400 at-home tests that will expire in September.
"These items do no good sitting here in our office," she continued.
Crown will be running the giveaway with the help of two contact tracers who will be able to answer any questions residents may have.
Although the Centers for Disease Control said contact tracing is no longer necessary, Health and Human Services will continue to reach out to community members who have tested positive and speak with those in close contact with them.
Crown explained that these calls are not to contact trace but to help educate unvaccinated residents and encourage booster vaccination.
"If people do feel ill — anywhere from a stuffy nose to a cough to fever — especially during this time of the year when people's allergies are rampant, we shouldn’t assume that it's allergies," Crown said. "We encourage people to take a test if they feel ill."
Health and Human Services recommend wearing a mask on public transportation, keeping up with the vaccines and immediately testing if you feel sick.
They are also coordinating with the state Department of Public Health, Griffin Health Van to set up vaccine clinics throughout the summer at community events such as the farmers market Saturdays on the Meriden Green and the Meriden Puerto Rican Festival.
For more information about the July 12, 19, and 26 giveaways, call the Health and Human Services Department at 203-630-4221.
Health Equity Reporter Cris Villalonga-Vivoni is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. To learn more about RFA go to www.reportforamerica.org. Villalonga-Vivoni can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.