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Hartford HealthCare Reopens COVID Testing Site in Newington

September 22, 2021

As the number of COVID-19 cases in Connecticut continues to rise, Hartford HealthCare announced expanded testing opportunities for people, starting with the reopening of its testing site in Newington.

The drive-through site at 181 Patricia M. Genova Drive reopened Monday to help accommodate the growing number of symptomatic people.

This comes as Hartford HealthCare experts continue to highlight the value of vaccination against the potentially deadly virus and dismiss concerns that breakthrough infections indicate the vaccine does not work.

“We’re seeing it nationally where the vaccine is seen as prevention against disease,” began Dr. Ulysses Wu, system director of infection disease and chief epidemiologist at Hartford HealthCare (HHC) in a media briefing Monday. “It’s about protecting those who get the disease to make the illness less severe.”

Dr. Ajay Kumar, HHC’s chief clinical officer, noted that new variants of COVID-19 – Lambda and Mu – are present in Connecticut and, with the return of youth to schools and universities, outbreaks are peppering the state.

“There is still significant suffering a year and a half later. The vaccine is the right strategy to prevent death,” he said.

While he declined to comment specifically on a recent outbreak of the virus on the Connecticut College campus, Dr. Kumar urged people to remain cautious because a fair amount of people are not vaccinated.

Infection rates and hospitalizations have been climbing, and he said 25 to 27 percent of people currently in the hospital with COVID were vaccinated. However, only about 10 percent of them came in for help with related symptoms. Others came to the hospital with other medical concerns and were tested for the virus as protocol.

The need for a vaccine booster shot this fall also does not diminish the power of the COVID-19 vaccination against the potentially lethal virus that has raged waves of pandemic since March 2020, Dr. Wu added.

“We have the ability to adjust for new variants,” he said of the booster. “They are also needed to build immunity.”

Booster shots produced by pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Moderna, in the same dose as initial vaccine, are expected to start for the immunocompromised later this month through HHC’s acute care facilities and community vaccine efforts. Dr. Wu said it’s important to get the booster that matches the initial vaccination received.

“What they call ‘mixing and matching’ is possible in the future but not now,” he said, adding that Johnson & Johnson is in the midst of the regulatory approval process for its booster. “I expect we’ll see that in a month or two.”

As for the HHC workforce, Dr. Kumar said 97 percent of full-time colleagues are fully vaccinated, as are 99.2 percent of the medical staff. He expected the numbers to climb even higher as the deadline for vaccination within the system nears later this month.

“The vaccine works,” Dr. Wu stressed. “It’s our pathway forward if we’re ever going to beat this disease. It’s not just about you, either. The vaccine helps stop transmission of the disease to others.”