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Connecticut to expand COVID-19 testing sites as cases grow

December 21, 2021 GMT

The number of COVID-19 testing locations and hours of available testing will expand over the next week or more as Connecticut continues to see more positive cases, driven in part by the fast-spreading omicron variant and an increased demand for testing.

While there are currently about 400 state and private testing locations across the state, Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont said Monday that seven more state sites will be added to the mix, including a new saliva testing site on the New Haven Green that’s scheduled to open this week.

“We’re expanding the hours of many of our sites to make it easier for you, before work and after work. We’re adding on additional sites. I’ve had good conversations with the pharmacies. They are going to be expanding testing as well,” said Lamont, adding how the hospitals are also expanding their public testing capacity.

Since Friday, there have been more than 6,200 additional positive cases, according to figures released Monday. The number of hospitalizations grew by 101, to 837, the highest level since early February.

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Dr. Manisha Juthani, the state’s public health commissioner, said the health care company Sema4 has agreed to continue providing testing services at sites across Connecticut through the end of January, giving the state some more time to find replacement vendors after Sema4 announced it was ending its COVID-19 testing program.

“We had competitively bid for vendors who are ready and willing to pick up those sites,” said Juthani. With the seven new locations coming online, new vendors will be needed for 30 state-run testing sites across Connecticut.

Stamford-based Sema4, whose investors include a venture capital firm run by Lamont’s wife, Annie, recently told its investors and state officials that it planned to drop its COVID-19 testing in mid-January and return to its core business, genomic testing.

Meanwhile, to help ease the demand for testing services, Lamont announced Monday there will be a temporary two-week “pause” on the enforcement of vaccination mandates for certain unvaccinated workers who undergo testing in order to comply. The short enforcement hiatus does not affect hospital workers or employees in congregate settings such prisons, where testing will still be made available.

“For all the others, office workers, educators, many of whom are going to be on vacation for some of the next two weeks anyway, we’re going to pause enforcement,” said Josh Geballe, Lamont’s chief operating officer. “What we expect that will do is free up a little bit of additional capacity for other residents of the state who are actually symptomatic or who are exposed so they can have a little bit quicker access to testing.”

Also Monday, the state announced residents can now store their personal COVID-19 vaccination records on their smartphones by using the voluntary SMART Health Cards program. It enables a vaccinated resident to display a QR code that confirms their vaccination status, a standard that is already being used in New York, California and Canada. Massachusetts, Rhode Island and other states are also expected to launch programs using the same standard.