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Connecticut still seeking new lab for many state virus test sites

HARTFORD (AP) — Officials are still working to replace the lab company that handles most of Connecticut's state-run coronavirus testing, but they don't anticipate any sites shutting down when the company pulls out at the end of the month, according to a newspaper report Saturday.

Meanwhile, Gov. Ned Lamont said Saturday the state has distributed 3.1 million at-home test kits in the last two weeks to cities, school systems, state employees and other groups in the last two weeks.

The switch comes as cases have been rising in Connecticut, as in the U.S. as a whole, amid the spread of the super-infectious omicron variant of the virus.

State officials are talking with other labs but haven't yet inked a plan to replace Sema4, the company that processes tests from 16 of the roughly two dozen state sites, the Department of Public Health told the Connecticut Post Friday. But it said the sites would keep running.

“At this time, there are no planned interruptions as part of the transition,” DPH spokesman Christopher Boyle told the newspaper. He said some locations might move “if that change will better meet the needs of the community.”

Stamford-based Sema4 told investors and state officials last month that it would stop COVID-19 testing in mid-January and return its focus to genomic testing, its core business. Sema4 later agreed to continue the coronavirus testing through the end of this month.

The company handled about two-thirds of some 25,000 tests that the state-run sites have conducted in recent weeks, according to data provided to Hearst Connecticut Media.

There are other testing options, such as pharmacies and at-home tests. The state expects to get and distribute thousands more self-test kits in the coming days, said Lamont, a Democrat.

Still, the state sites are crucial for some communities.

In Kent, a small town near the New York border, the next-closest testing location is a 40-minute drive away or more, said Jean Speck, head of the town’s board of selectmen.

The demand for testing at the Kent site has roughly quadrupled during the omicron surge, prompting a decision to extend the site's hours, she told the newspaper.

“I’m doing everything I can to keep it open,” she said, praising the state and Sema4 for their work.



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