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COVID test kits delayed in Conn.; Local distributions set for Thursday postponed

The Biden administration has announced a new investment in at-home COVID tests. Here, an Abbott BinaxNow test.
Ted S. Warren
The Biden administration has announced a new investment in at-home COVID tests. Here, an Abbott BinaxNow test.

The state has informed local officials that a delivery of at-home COVID-19 testing kits that they were still hopeful may arrive on an overnight flight are still stuck on the West Coast and that all distributions plans scheduled for Thursday should be canceled.

State officials had held out hope that an overnight delivery would still occur and that National Guard troops working through the night would still be able to get the cargo from Bradley International Airport and distribute the test kits to five regional hubs across the state by mid-morning.

But officials were informed around midnight that the plane is not arriving overnight and it is unclear when they will get here. The announcement left many municipal leaders upset that the administration had “overpromised and underdelivered,” leaving them to deal with what they anticipate will be irate residents.

“Like everything else rolled out by the State with no plan and dumped into our municipal laps to try and figure it out, they change the rules by the hour,” Harwinton First Selectmen Michael Criss said in a posting on the town’s website canceling today’s expected kit distribution.

“We are working tirelessly as your elected officials to try and get you the most accurate information regarding test kits and N95 mask distribution. We are doing the best we can to sort through mountains of information, hours or meetings and keep the information as clear and concise as possible, so please share the information and keep politics out of it,” Criss said.

Municipal leaders have been working overtime since Gov. Ned Lamont announced the test distribution at a press conference Monday and told the public that municipal leaders could start distributing kits as early as Thursday. Many had already called in employees to work overtime and possibly on a holiday to distribute the kits.

“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,” Lamont said in a statement. “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.”

In a conference call with municipal leaders state Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Manisha Juthani said the delay was “due to shipping and warehouse delays that are really outside of the control of the state of Connecticut.”

Lamont activated the National Guard on Tuesday to handle the distribution across the state. The original plan was to have the National Guard transport the kits from Bradley International Airport to the state’s warehouse in New Britain, where they would be divided and distributed to regional delivery points, where local officials would pick them up.

The first allocation will include the distribution of 500,000 iHealth kits — each containing two tests for a total of 1 million tests — that will be designated for the general public.

State officials also are planning to distribute 1 million additional iHealth kits to K-12 schools statewide starting in January.

The delay will cause numerous issues for many communities, many of which were already moving quickly to prepare to distribute the test kits.

Several communities have scheduled distributions on Thursday and others on Friday.

Some communities had called in extra personnel to handle the logistics of distributing the kits, including the possibility of doing it on Friday, a holiday. Several had said they have been inundated with phone calls at their offices from residents seeking answers about when they will be distributed.

The state’s 23 testing sites continue to be overwhelmed in advance of New Year’s Eve, with many of them closing early because they ran out of tests. In Bristol on Tuesday, someone allegedly threatened to pull a gun at a testing center.

Last week, about 250,000 tests were reported to the Connecticut Department of Public Health, numbers that haven’t been seen since the earliest months of the pandemic in the spring of 2020.

The state’s case numbers continue to climb on Wednesday, with more than 7,500 cases and the positivity rate at almost 18%.