Municipalities are continuing to search for additional COVID-19 test kits after distribution events ran out of supplies within hours.
Over 400,000 kits were received by the state government on Dec. 31 and were provided to towns and cities for local distribution events, but demand outpaced what was available. In Cheshire, Assistant Town Manager Arnett Talbot said the logistics of setting up the town’s distribution on Jan. 4 went well, there just weren’t enough tests for the approximately 10,000 households.
“The setup was very effective. The problem was we only had enough kits for 730 households … so you can imagine that the demand quite exceeded the supply,” she said.
Cheshire received an additional 90 test kits which the town made available to residents 55 and older who called to make an appointment starting at 9 a.m. on Monday.
“The plan was that people could call beginning 9 a.m. this morning and get an appointment to get a test kit and by 20 after 9 there was 135 messages,” Talbot said.
The town opted to have older residents schedule appointments and spread those out over the course of a few days this week to prevent crowds from forming as they come in to pick up their tests.
Staff are continuing to search for additional test kits to make available to residents, however Talbot said they’re just as hard to find for municipalities as they are for companies and individuals. While she’s hopeful that popup test sites will reopen or that kits could become available from the federal government, she said the state has advised municipalities that it “will not be supplying anymore test kits to municipalities as of now.”
“I know it’s incredibly frustrating to the residents as well,” Talbot said. “ … All we can do at this point is we’re telling people to keep checking the stores and online sites that sell them and just keep checking and hoping stock is available.”
A distribution event held at the Southington Drive-In on Jan. 3 was so heavily attended that traffic stretched onto the Meriden-Waterbury Turnpike, causing a traffic jam on the road. Town staff provided tests for around 1,500 of the vehicles which attended, however many still went home without a kit.
“It was a very smooth event, but it just created a backup. There was such high demand,” said Susan Lonczak, director of the Plainville-Southington Regional Health District. While the distribution was held by the municipal government, the health district assisted in setting it up and was on site handing out N95 masks.
Vehicles began lining up for the event at 11 a.m. on Monday, five hours before the distribution began, but once they got cars moving through the line, the process of giving each household two test kits and five masks went smoothly. Lonczak said future distributions will take into account the feedback they received last week.
“There are plenty of other ways in the future that we could dispense test kits which aren't as problematic … just on the traffic sense,” she said.
Wallingford Health Director Stephen Civitelli said the town’s distribution event on Jan. 4 went well. Each vehicle passing through the Oakdale Theatre parking lot was provided with one test kit containing tests, along with five N95 masks.
“For potential future allocations the Mayor's office will evaluate/coordinate the way to best meet the needs of the Wallingford community,” he said.
Meriden held its distribution on Saturday to improve accessibility for those who work on weekdays and set up two sites at Lincoln and Edison middle schools to avoid traffic congestion. Director of Health and Human Services Lea Crown said 2,160 test kits were handed out, two per vehicle, and around 20,000 N95 masks were provided.
The city was considering using funding from the American Rescue Plan to purchase additional test kits, however Crown said it received word on Monday that a Wren Laboratories test site, located at 13 Orange St. in Meriden, is expanding its hours for PCR testing and Midstate Medical Center is coordinating a drive-up testing trailer.
The new hours for Wren’s testing will be Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8 a.m. to noon and 3 to 6 p.m. and on Saturdays 8 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m. Testing is not being offered Tuesday, however, due to cold conditions.
“If people do test positive from their home kit we would like them to stay home for five days from their onset of symptoms or from the date they took a test without symptoms,” Crown said. “They should then continue to wear a mask around others for an additional five days, if they’re still not feeling well after five days of staying home we recommend that they reach out to their doctors for further guidance, but certainly stay home until they feel better.”