Update: This has been updated to reflect that the Grass Island site was open until 4:00pm.
Tuesday’s free Covid test kit and N95 mask giveaway for Greenwich residents was popular. So popular in fact that for a time, the queue of cars headed to the Senior Center backed up Greenwich Ave several blocks and around the corner to East Elm Street and all the way up and down Mason Street.
While there were extra officers on scene to help with traffic flow, and residents were advised to expect delays, downtown traffic became paralyzed. Frustrated residents blocked the box at intersections near the Senior Center and Grass Island.
The Senior Center was designated for residents age 60+ and Grass Island was open to any resident with ID and wearing a mask.
While the early birds to the giveaway were thrilled to be in and out of either location in just minutes, by 12:15pm the lines of cars began to stretch. The event was set to run from 12:00 noon to 4:00pm, but by about 12:45pm the Senior Center ran out of supplies.
Greenwich Police, along with volunteer firefighters from Glenville, Byram, Sound Beach and Cos Cob, and the Cos Cob Fire Police Patrol all helped with what was a well orchestrated system. What was unpredicted was the turnout for the limited supply.
Tuesday was the first phase to distribute approximately 6,000 Covid test kits to residents; significantly less than the 16,020 test kits the town was initially scheduled to receive.
Greenwich Police Chief Heavey, stationed outside the Senior Center said 735 cars had already driven up by 12:45pm, many with multiple passengers from different households each receiving test kits. By the end, over 1,500 test kits were handed out.
He explained that initially some seniors who didn’t have cars and were members of the Senior Center were allowed to arrive on foot, though the event was publicized as cars-only. He said as the line of cars grew, they stopped allowing walk ups.
Heavey said that on Monday police delivered test kits to congregate settings across town including GADC, Hill House and Pathways.
At about 12:45pm, when the supply had almost run out at the Senior Center, one driver stopped in the middle of Greenwich Ave long enough to shout an obscenity at the police, who took it in stride. Chief Heavey said several people had already lost their tempers.
When the supply ran out at the Senior Center, police directed residents who had been in line on Greenwich Ave to head over to Grass Island where there was still supply left.
Heavey said it was difficult to anticipate the response to the give away, and he wished there had been a greater supply.
He said that the Senior Center location had been selected because it is a comfort zone for many elderly residents. Volunteers used the diagonal parking spaces to create a lane along the side of Greenwich Avenue. Once cars turned off the Ave to the Senior Center the process went quickly.
The Police Chief said he hoped at any future give-away, they might limit eligibility at the Senior Center to members of the facility. And, if scheduled over a weekend, Town Hall might be an ideal location in addition to Grass Island.
This story will be updated when the Town shares additional information.