Governor Ned Lamont today announced plans to distribute three million COVID-19 at-home rapid tests and six million N95 masks in Connecticut in an effort to help curb the spread of COVID-19 during this heavy travel and holiday season.
The first allocation will include the distribution of 500,000 iHealth kits – each containing two tests for a total of one million tests – that will be designated for the general public. The distribution of these kits is scheduled to begin on Thursday, December 30, 2021, and is expected to run through the following week.
The Connecticut Department of Public Health, Connecticut Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, and Connecticut National Guard will oversee the distribution of the kits, with support from regional and local emergency management teams. This initiative also will include the distribution of N95 masks. State officials stress that details of the distribution of the kits and N95 masks are still being finalized and are subject to change this week.
In addition to those designated for the general public, the state has purchased another one million iHealth kits – each containing two tests for a total of two million tests – that will be distributed to K-12 schools statewide. Distribution of those kits, which will also include a supply of N95 masks, will begin in January and continue through the school year as supplies last. Planning for this initiative is being conducted in partnership with the Connecticut State Department of Education. More details on the distribution of tests for schools will be announced in early January.
The total cost of the three million tests is approximately $18.5 million and will be funded through federal funds.
“Connecticut is currently experiencing another surge in COVID-19 cases that is being driven mostly by the highly transmissible Omicron variant,” Governor Lamont said. “As a result, the demand for tests has outpaced the supply of testing available through our statewide network of about 400 sites. The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is likely to be a period of high transmission, and we have to get 2022 off to a good start by helping residents identify COVID-19 quickly and take those steps to isolate appropriately to curb any further spread.”
The governor added that the addition of these at-home tests will immediately expand the number of tests available in Connecticut in a very short period. Last week, about 250,000 tests were reported to the Connecticut Department of Public Health.
“There are three simple and effective interventions to fight off the current surge of COVID-19 from the Omicron variant – vaccination, masking, and testing,” Connecticut Public Health Commissioner Dr. Manisha Juthani said. “We will be distributing two of these – masks and tests – so that our communities can work as quickly as possible to get past this surge. I strongly encourage people to limit gathering sizes during this holiday week. Because of the scarcity of these kits, I am asking the residents of our state to please take only the kits that you need for your immediate family so that we can distribute as many as possible to help flatten the Omicron curve.
Per the CDC recommendations, if your self-test yields a positive result, please stay home or isolate for 10 days and wear a mask. There is no need to obtain a follow up PCR test. Given the highly infectious nature of the Omicron variant, it is most important to wear any mask both in public spaces and when interacting in close contact with individuals outside of your household, but an N95 mask will provide better protection. We are distributing enough N95 masks for any Connecticut resident that would like one.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has granted emergency use authorization for the iHealth COVID-19 antigen rapid test, which is completed with an anterior nasal swab and is not the deep nasal test. The complete instructions for the at-home rapid test are available on the iHealth packaging in English and Spanish. Results are usually available in 15 minutes. More information on the iHealth antigen home test kits is available at ihealthlabs.com.
“Residents who have not been vaccinated should get their COVID-19 vaccine now and can do so by visiting ct.gov/covidvaccine,” Commissioner Juthani said. “For all vaccinated people 16 and older that are eligible for a booster, please get one as soon as possible. For all school-age children 5 and older that are not vaccinated yet, please use this school break to get vaccinated. Vaccination saves lives and keeps people who get COVID out of the hospital.”
The Connecticut Department of Public Health is in the process of adding 7 more community testing sites to its current roster of 23 state-sponsored sites. Information on the approximately 400 COVID-19 testing sites currently operating in Connecticut is available by calling 2-1-1 or visiting 211CT.org.