NORWALK, Conn. — The City is planning to distribute free rapid at-home COVID-19 tests to residents at 6 p.m. today, Tuesday Jan. 4, at Calf Pasture Beach. Supplies are limited and the drive-thru distribution event is first come, first serve; if the supply doesn’t run out, the event will end at 9 p.m. N95 and KN95 masks will be available.
City officials are also talking about opening another testing site, given the long lines to get into Veterans Park, Mayor Harry Rilling said. Dealing with the “huge surge” in demand has been challenging but he gave the Norwalk Police Department instructions to close the gate until two hours before the test event is set to open and shoo people off the road if they line up before that. “So far, that’s been relatively good.”
“The demand for testing is at unprecedented levels as the Omicron variant sweeps through our community. Please, only seek a test if you have known exposure to or symptoms of COVID-19. Testing should not be used as a general screening tool since the supply cannot meet the demand,” Rilling said in a news release. “Given the number of tests we’ve received from the state, there is unfortunately no way we can reach every household. I share in the frustration that 22 months into this pandemic we do not have adequate testing resources. I, along with our state delegation, continue to advocate for more resources for our community.”
“We didn’t get anywhere near the number we expected,” Rilling told Board of Estimate and Taxation members at Monday evening’s Zoom meeting. “We didn’t get anywhere near the number that would adequately serve the city.”
Norwalk had planned to give residents at-home tests Friday at the beach, but Gov. Ned Lamont announced Thursday that the promised order of 1.5 million COVID-19 home test kits that was supposed to be on its way to Connecticut was not coming.
The state had an “airtight agreement” with a vendor who sent officials pictures of the supplies, Lamont said. State officials repeatedly said they had a purchase order with a wholesaler, and that since the kits were never delivered, no state money was paid to anyone.
“Originally, Norwalk was set to receive more than 11,000 test kits – each of which contained two tests. Now, the city received 13,500 single test kits – almost half of what was originally allocated,” the City news release said. “Of the 13,500 tests, Norwalk will be distributing approximately 8,500 to the general public at the beach on January 4. The remaining tests are being distributed to Norwalk first responders, those in congregate living facilities and who are greater risk of exposure and are the most vulnerable.”
The beach will be closed all day Tuesday.
“Motorists seeking free at-home tests must enter from Beach Road,” the news release said. “Any motorist attempting to enter from Canfield Avenue will be turned around and directed to Beach Road. Residents should not attempt to enter the beach early, as the gates will be locked until 5 p.m. Please do not drive around the area as this will impact the safe arrival and dismissal of Marvin School. Norwalk Police Officers will be on site all day to ensure vehicles are not parking in neighborhoods and surrounding areas.”
N95 and KN95 masks will be handed out with a limit of four per household and two tests will be limited to two per car. Proof of residency is required, and that could be a utility bill, a beach pass or photo ID.
The problem with the huge demand for tests at Veterans Park is that “we only have so many human resources that we can use,” Rilling said to the BET. The folks doing the testing only get 500 test per day and people were showing up at 8 a.m. for an event that began at 3 p.m.
That resulted in a line of cars going over the Stroffolino Bridge, down Water Street and onto Quintard Avenue, Rilling said. Now, police are lining people up in rows two hours in advance and then letting them in, one row at a time.
BET Chairman Ed Camacho asked if this would result in a shortfall in the police budget, given the unexpected nature of the work. Rilling said he hoped the City would be reimbursed for the expenditures.
The City set aside money in contingency funds, and also has American Rescue Plan Act money, said Norwalk Chief Financial Officer Henry Dachowitz.
“We want to make sure that we have the proper coverage, because quite frankly, some people can be very aggressive, very rude to the officers, and is just a very chaotic situation,” Rilling said. “I give the officers a lot of credit, not only for the ability to control the lines and make some sort of pattern out of it, but also to be very patient and very understanding of the people that are waiting for six, seven hours only get up to the front of the line and say there’s no testing.”
The City did not release COVID-19 updates over the holidays.
According to the State:
- For the two-week period ending Dec. 25, Norwalk had a “cases per 100,000 rate” of 101.3. The week ending Dec. 18 had 457 cases reported while the week ending Dec. 25 had 803 cases reported. Total tests were 12,477. Percent positivity was 12.3.
- For the two-week period ending Dec. 25, Stamford had a “cases per 100,000 rate” of 95.4. The week ending Dec. 18 had 546 cases reported while the week ending Dec. 25 had 1,732 cases reported. Total tests for the two-week period were 13,856. Percent positivity was 15.
- As of Monday, Norwalk has had 16,158 cases. Total deaths are 204. (Confirmed deaths are 207, probable are 33.) “People tested” is 82,564. Rate tested per 100,000 is 92,961.
- As of Monday, Stamford has had 21,682 cases. Total deaths are 338. (Confirmed deaths are 298, probable are 40.) “People tested” is 118,390. Rate tested per 100,000 is 91,324.
- Statewide, as of Monday, hospitalizations for COVID increased by 301 to 1,452 since Thursday, a 25% jump. Hospitalizations now exceed the peak of 1,200 during the surge a year ago, but fall short of the 2,000 in the spring of 2020.
Connecticut Mirror reporters Dave Altimari and Mark Paznioka contributed to this story.