Shipping and warehouse problems outside of Connecticut delayed the state’s plan to distribute millions of COVID-19 test kits to municipalities, Gov. Ned Lamont announced Wednesday.
“Due to shipping and warehouse delays outside of the State of Connecticut’s control, our state’s anticipated shipment of COVID-19 at-home rapid tests are currently delayed from arriving in Connecticut,” according to a statement Lamont issued Wednesday afternoon. “My staff and multiple state agencies have spent the past several days working around the clock to accelerate the movement of our tests through what is clearly a shipping and distribution bottleneck on the West Coast amid unprecedented international demand for tests.”
Lamont went on to thank municipal and emergency management partners who established methods of distribution of the tests and communicated them to their communities. Lamont did not offer any update on when the tests will be arriving to the state but said information will be forthcoming as it becomes available.
Cities and towns in central Connecticut had braced for thousands of people coming to get free at-home test kits and masks at established distribution sites Thursday.
Meriden Police Chief Roberto Rosado called for patience Wednesday afternoon in anticipation of the effort.
“Our goal is to provide a test kit as safely as possible,” Rosado said before the delay was announced.
Meriden is set to distribute 2,000 test kits and 10,000 masks, and had planned to do so at noon at the north end of the Meriden Green on Mill Street. Vehicles were to enter from Pratt Street and queue up into two lanes on Mill Street. Workers from the city’s Health and Human Services Department and Fire Department were scheduled to distribute the kits to people in their vehicles who would then exit Mill Street on State Street.
No parking signs had been posted as of Wednesday and all departments are set to assisting in the event.
“We are anticipating a number of residents coming out to obtain these test kits,” Rosado said.
While city officials anticipated a large number of vehicles, there were provisions for walk-ups, Rosado said. The remaining 5,000 kits to be allocated by the state are to be distributed to community partners, the city’s COVID-19 testing site, churches, daycare centers and food pantries next week, said Lea Crown, director of the city’s Health and Human Services Department.
The status of those plans remained unknown Wednesday evening after the announced delay.
“It’s been difficult to get testing,” Rosado said of the community need during a holiday week. Crown “has done a great job getting these tests to our community partners for those who might not have the means to get a test.”
Lamont had asked those with more resources to purchase a test kit in the marketplace to allow those with lower incomes or lack transportation to get the free tests. But with at-home testing kits in short supply, municipal leaders anticipated thousands would show up.
“I have a feeling it’s going to be very busy,” Jay Baker, emergency management director for the town of Southington, said prior to the delay announcement. “From the chatter on social media, I get the impression people are very concerned to get these kits.”
Southington plans to distribute 5,400 kits and masks with an event that was scheduled from 3 to 6 p.m. on Thursday and if supplies held out, again on Friday morning from 9 a.m. to noon. The distribution site is planned at the Recreation Park concession stand on Maxwell Noble Drive. Workers from the health department and the town’s Community Emergency Response Team are to hand out the test kits.
Residents were asked to have identification available and were limited to four kits.
The town of Wallingford did not have a finalized plan and was waiting until this morning when it expected to receive 5,500 kits.
“All the stakeholders will have a meeting to decide a strategy for distributing the test kits,” said Wallingford Fire Chief and Head of Emergency Services Joe Czentnar.
Cheshire had expected to receive 3,600 test kits to be distributed to town residents at Cheshire High School from noon to 4 p.m. or until all test kits were handed out. Proof of residency is required and there was a limit of four kits per household.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, who visited Meriden Wednesday, said the test kits are a key part of controlling the pandemic and have become more reliable than before.
“When people feel like they’re getting sick, or they’ve been exposed to someone who appears sick or they are going into a situation like a classroom where they want to be tested,” Blumenthal said. “If you have enough tests, we can really conquer this pandemic. People who’ve been exposed or feel sick or otherwise feel they ought to be tested can stay at home if they test positive.”