State to get 1 million rapid COVID-19 tests


By Paul Hughes, Republican-American

HARTFORD — Gov. Ned Lamont announced Tuesday that Connecticut is expecting to receive 1 million of the latest rapid COVID-19 tests from the federal government.

State officials are anticipating receiving the first shipment of 69,000 of the new 15-minute diagnostic tests developed by Abbott Laboratories in a matter of days.

“This is a pretty big deal,” Lamont said.

The Lamont administration anticipates deploying tests to public schools and child care settings for on-the-spot testing. Some will also be reserved for the state’s rapid response teams that are dispatched to react to flare-ups of COVID-19 in a nursing home, a state prison or a town or city.

“We just found out about this yesterday. We have a couple of ideas here of where we’d like to deploy these. We’ll continue to look at more opportunities as we get more inventory shipped into Connecticut,” said Josh Geballe, the governor’s chief operating officer.

The governor’s announcement Tuesday came a day after President Donald Trump announced plans to distribute 100 million of the new Abbott tests to states according to their population.

The tests will come from a previously announced supply of 150 million ordered from Abbott. The company’s rapid test is the first that does not require specialty computer equipment to process. It delivers results in about 15 minutes.

State officials are estimating Connecticut will receive approximately 1 million of the new Abbott tests based on its population of 3.5 million.

Lamont said he plans to get expert advice on how the rapid tests should be distributed and used.

Geballe said the limited availability of the Abbott tests will also be a factor in the state’s planning. He contrasted the number of students and educators in public schools to the approximately 1 million tests that are expected to be received.

“If you think about 600,000 teachers and students across the state, we could go through these pretty quickly so we need to use them strategically,” he said.

Geballe also observed the state is currently averaging 500,000 diagnostic tests a month. Results are being generally received within 24 to 48 hours of testing, he said.

Lamont said he was not overly concerned about the accuracy rate of the new Abbott test after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had issued a warning in May that an earlier rapid test from the company may be delivering inaccurate results.

He said officials from the White House Coroanvirus Task Force represented Monday that the new Abbott test is 97% accurate for people showing symptoms of COVID-19.

“Obviously, if you’re not showing symptoms yet, it is a little bit less accurate, but I think this is a pretty good backstop to what we want to do, especially when it comes to anybody who may be symptomatic. We can test them on the spot. You know whether that class has to quarantine or doesn’t have to quarantine,” he said.

The governor also reported that Connecticut will be using a new contact tracing telephone app developed by Google and Apple that will notify a person of possible exposure to COVID-19. No timetable was announced.

Lamont and Geballe explained the app that will be available on iOS and Android devices will let the phone’s owner know if they had been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19.

Lamont and Geballe said contact tracing app from Apple and Google will use anonymous data to match locations of people, and they said the tech companies have pledged not to use the data for any other purpose.

“The anonymity is really important because it’s not simply a matter of this being available,” Lamont said. “It is 10 times more effective if 10 times more people feel comfortable having this app on their smartphone.”