On Thursday, Governor Ned Lamont issued an executive order intended to expand COVID-19 testing in Connecticut.
Executive order 7KK allows pharmacies to order and administer FDA approved tests.
This means residents will no longer be required to get a referral from a primary physician to be tested.
“One of our top priorities to combat COVID-19 is to significantly increase testing. This includes focusing on testing everyone who has any symptoms and increasing screening of asymptomatic people in nursing homes, correctional facilities, health care facilities, and disadvantaged communities,” Lamont said.
The Governor said the State is working with suppliers every day to get the materials needed to expand testing.
Earlier in the day, during an online press conference, Dr. Tom Balcezak, chief medical officer of the Yale New Haven Health System said the system had updated their treatment algorithms by studying experiences with COVID-19 around the globe, including Italy and China.
“Our experience is similar to those around the world,” he said. “Virtually 100% of patients we admit present with a fever, 75% with a cough and 50% with extreme fatigue that can last for several weeks.”
Dr. Balcezak said that that globally, about 80% of people who develop COVID-19 end up having mild symptoms. About 15% need further supportive care. About 5% require ICU care and occasionally require mechanical ventilation.
“That’s consistent with what we’re seeing,” he said. “This is not like a flu. It may begin as a flu like illness with a cough and fever, but then progress to a lung disease which needs higher flow oxygen and sometimes mechanical flow ventilation.”
Dr. Balcezak said in the most severe cases of COVID-19, the body’s immune system can attack the organs including the kidneys, lungs and heart.
“We’re trying to figure out how to assist the state in reopening as cases continue to fall,” Balcezak said, adding, “The key is to getting better and more tests.”
Balcezak said the Yale New Haven Health System is doing about 1,000 tests in their laboratories daily.
“Next week we plan to increase to 3,000 a day. By June we plan to increase to 10,000 tests a day and by mid summer to 20,000 tests a day,” he said. “The Governor recommended across Connecticut we need between 30,000-50,000 tests a day. We think we can contribute to that pretty soon.”
Balcezak said that increased testing, in addition to contact tracing and social isolation will be key to the State’s reopening.
He talked about how tragic the pandemic has been for patients and their loved ones, especially due to visitor restrictions that allow just one family member to be with a patient who is dying, and said going forward it will be particularly important to watch the numbers closely, and ask people to continue social isolation, wear masks in public and continue hand hygiene.
“We have to be careful not to allow a second bump, that would require shutting things down again,” he said. “We have to remain vigilant.”
“I think we’ve come through our first peak,” said Marna Borgstrom, CEO of Yale New Haven Health. “Whether we see a continued diminution of Covid cases and can resume more normal operations is going to depend ultimately on a vaccination and more available and reliable testing with fast turnaround.”