EDITORIAL: Getting tested for COVID shouldn’t be difficult

The demand for COVID-19 testing increased significantly in August, a circumstance that was somewhat predictable in light of certain factors.

Schools are reopening, the highly contagious delta variant has been in the state for a while, more workplaces are requiring testing, and people have traveled over the summer, potentially increasing their exposure. Plus, there’s continuing COVID outbreaks among the vaccinated and unvaccinated.

The public also appears to be getting the message loud and clear from politicians, celebrities, pro athletes and medical experts, as well as from people who’ve gotten sick, that this virus must be taken seriously. That educational campaign makes more people want to get tested and vaccinated, too.   

According to the state Department of Public Health, testing sites reported as many as 35,000 tests over the four weekends in June, the Record-Journal recently reported. After vaccination programs got rolling, that number dropped below 20,000 in July but began climbing again to above 47,000 the final weekend in August.

“Once the vaccines became available, testing took a back seat,” Michael Rohde, community liaison for Community Health Center Inc., said in a recent Record-Journal article.  “Now, things are flipping. All of a sudden there is a new need that has popped up.” 

DPH seems to have been caught somewhat off guard by this rising demand. Over the summer, mass testing sites closed, leading to the current long wait for an appointment. Don’t expect walk-ins or same-day service and be prepared to travel. PCR testing at pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens are now one or two days out. Harford HealthCare’s Go Health Centers are requesting appointments at least a day in advance or risk a long wait.

At this time, the state has about 309 testing sites with DPH operating 12 of those. The plan is to get more testing sites online soon, including one in Meriden.

A new testing site should help ease the situation as other local options are limited. The Community Health Center only tests its patients since closing on-site testing centers on July 1. Meriden Health and Human Services refers requests to the 211 Infoline. 

People are motivated to get tested, whether due to school or work requirements, public information campaigns, personal concerns about exposure or some other reason. That motivation must be met with easy, affordable or free access. Opening more sites is a necessary move. How to plan better for an uptick in demand should be on the agenda for health departments, too.

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