NEW HAVEN, CT — U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal wasn’t experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19, but he got tested along with Mayor Justin Elicker on the New Haven Green Wednesday.
Blumenthal said it’s not the most comfortable thing to have a swab inserted into your nasal cavity, but “It doesn’t hurt and I didn’t cry.” He said it’s “awkward and strange, but it doesn’t cause any pain.”
He said if everybody does it, it will help reduce pain and suffering for others.
“Testing is so key to us getting this virus under control,” Elicker said.
Gov. Ned Lamont, who joined them on the Green, was previously tested and did not get a test Wednesday.
Elicker said they are starting to transition from testing only symptomatic people to trying to test everyone.
“There’s a lot of evidence to show the virus is transmitted before people even show symptoms,” Elicker said. “Some people may never even show symptoms but they can transmit the virus.”
Over the past seven days, statewide testing has dropped to 39,842 tests. The state has set a goal to do 42,000 tests per week through the end of June and then it wants to scale up to 100,000 tests per week in July.
Is the drop in testing a capacity issue or a messaging issue?
In the early phase of the pandemic, only symptomatic people with a doctor’s prescription were able to get tested. Testing then opened up to first responders and healthcare workers, and now anyone who feels they need to get tested can get tested.
The state, according to Lamont, now has more testing capacity than people turning out to get tested. He encouraged everyone to get tested.
Lamont said the labs have the capacity, but then he turned to Blumenthal and told him that Connecticut “could use more of those kits.”
Lamont said the drop in testing over the past seven days is probably related to the Memorial Day holiday.
“We have a lot of capacity,” Lamont said. “We need to do everything we can to encourage these people to come. Tell them it’s easy to do. We want you to do it.”
Lamont said the state is working with community groups to make sure the testing message gets out to the public. He said they’re trying to cut down on any obstacles people may have for getting tested.
New Haven Health Director Maritza Bond said capacity is no longer an issue.
“You do not need a doctor’s order,” Bond said.
No one needed an appointment Wednesday to get tested on the green. The pop-up testing site will be open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and it will be run by New Haven in partnership with volunteers from the Medical Reserve Corps and clinicians from Murphy Medical Associates.
Community testing in New Haven is more widespread and accessible than in other parts of the state.
In addition to testing the community, Connecticut is working to make sure that more than 20,000 nursing home patients get tested on a weekly basis. They are also encouraging private nursing home operators to test their staff on a weekly basis, but that’s not something the state can enforce. There are an estimated 30,000 nursing home workers in Connecticut.
Connecticut is also working at testing all of the inmates in its prisons. The Department of Correction has tested inmates at Osborn Correctional Institution and Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Center. This week they are working on testing inmates at Willard-Cybulski in Enfield.
A seventh inmate in the custody of the DOC died Tuesday from the virus.
Barbara Fair of New Haven questioned Lamont about why he hasn’t done more to protect the prison population.
“But people are still dying, and you could have released some of those people, but you decided you didn’t want to do that,” Fair said. “Now, what I’d like to know is why are those lives disposable, that you don’t even have a plan to release?”
Lamont tried to explain, “We are testing all the people at our correctional facilities.”
Fair told Lamont he should have released some of the inmates and then she continued to ask the governor why he thought some of those “lives were disposable.”
She asked Lamont for his plan to address the prison population.
Lamont said they are moving forward with testing.
As of Tuesday, 792 inmates tested positive for COVID-19 and 519 have recovered and been returned to their original facility after spending time in a special unit at Northern Correctional Institution.