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Bristol Hospital hopes to have mobile trailers used to test coronavirus next week

By The Bristol Press

March 09, 2020

Bristol Hospital hopes to have mobile trailers used to test for the coronavirus up and running by next week.

The units are expected to be at the hospital by the end of this week, at which point officials would need some time before they are put to use, Dr. Andrew Lim, medical director of emergency medicine at Bristol Health, said Monday during a press conference at the hospital hosted by Gov. Ned Lamont and other officials.

The trailer units would allow patients who do not need hospitalization to be tested for novel coronavirus, while limiting exposure to staff and other patients. Those who believe they need to be tested should contact a physician, who can conduct a phone screening, before coming to the hospital, Lim advised.

“A patient can come to the hospital to have those swabs performed without entering the building,” Lim said.

According to Lim, the mortality rate of coronavirus when it first surfaced was believed to be around 2%. Since then, he said, the latest numbers suggest that this has fallen to less than 1% - which is comparable to the flu. He also noted that about 80% of patients who are diagnosed with coronavirus get better without any hospitalization.

Lim was joined by Lamont, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Marco Palmeri, director of health of the Bristol-Burlington Health District, during the news conference Monday, which drew media members from all over Connecticut. State officials at the conference did not announce any new cases of coronavirus in Connecticut.

One resident from Wilton, between the age of 40 and 50, has tested positive. Additionally, two New York state residents with ties to Connecticut hospitals have also tested positive, state officials have said.

The state has done less than 50 tests for coronavirus and has received another test kit that will allow for 600 to be administered, according to Lamont. This will allow officials to expand who can receive the tests.

“We’ve obviously had our first Connecticut case of COVID-19, and it will not be the last,” Lamont said.

“Hope for the best and plan for the worst,” the governor added.

Lamont said state employees have been notified not to travel out of state if it’s not necessary. They have also been encouraged to conduct teleconference meetings over in person meetings.

“Let’s limit what our exposure is,” Lamont said.

Students at state universities have been advised not to go home over spring break if possible and, if they do, to self quarantine for 14 days upon returning.

“Infections know no state boundaries,” Lamont said.

Lamont said state officials have tried to lead by example in encouraging private employers to allow employees to work from home.

On the federal level, Blumenthal said he’s glad there is another diagnostic test in Connecticut that will allow for expanding those who can be tested, but he criticized the response from the White House amid the coronavirus outbreak.

“It is too little and very late, inexcusably late,” Blumenthal said, saying these kits were promised last week by the vice president.

Connecticut hospitals should be commended for their response, as they have stepped up and said “cost is not a consideration,” according to Blumenthal - who believes state facilities should be reimbursed by the federal government, as they are already hard pressed financially.

Blumenthal also called for Connecticut businesses, especially those that are smaller, to receive federal assistance.

“If you are sick, stay away from work,” Blumenthal said. “If you’re an employer with a sick worker, encourage them to stay away from work. All they can do is infect others.”

Blumenthal said the federal government can help with this by providing assistance to employers for employees who take sick leave.

“That’s our next challenge,” Blumenthal said.

Locally, Bristol Hospital officials have been meeting on a daily basis to discuss the latest about COVID-19, with a focus on protecting patients and staff. Lim said officials are preparing for a potential surge in patients who need to be tested for the virus.

Following the news conference, Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu issued a statement detailing what city officials are doing to prevent the spread of the virus.

“I wanted to take a moment to assure our city employees that our focus remains on two key priorities: Caring for the health and well-being of our employees and taxpayers and playing a constructive role in supporting our local health officials and Bristol Hospital as everyone works to contain the virus,” the mayor said.

“We are taking guidance from the CDC as well as state and local health authorities, and have increased cleaning and sanitizing for city buildings to help prevent the spread of all germs,” Zoppo-Sassu said. “We are using an EPA certified disinfectant/detergent (Hillyard Re-Juv-Nal 16) which acts as a bactericide, virucide and fungicide.

On Tuesday, the mayor said, the city’s Emergency Management Director Harley Graime will hold the second local emergency preparedness meeting for all involved city departments. The Board of Education is participating, communicating and sharing best practices as well.

“It is my hope that this public health issue will be contained and resolved soon,” Zoppo-Sassu said. “Until then, we will continue to be vigilant and will communicate as developments occur.”