State officials in Hartford Friday said they want to expand coronavirus testing “dramatically” in the next couple days and weeks.
Gov. Ned Lamont said this will cover more people who need to be tested or treated quickly.
“Folks coming from some of those tier 2 [travel advisory] countries where the epidemic has spread most robustly, really focused on those that might be most at risk,” he said, “maybe going toward the nursing homes and retirement centers just so we can be very careful in terms of what we can do in terms of prevention.”
Connecticut does not yet have a positive case of coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 illness, but other New England states continue to see more cases and more people being instructed to isolate themselves at home while they monitor for symptoms.
Josh Geballe, the governor’s chief operating officer, said several major hospitals throughout the state are seeking to get approval from the federal government to process coronavirus tests themselves, which would enable them to get results on site instead of waiting on the state's health lab in Rocky Hill.
Geballe said companies like Quest and LabCorp are also rolling out commercial testing capabilities.
But there continues to be questions on how much it would cost patients who get these tests.
“We are working with our insurance companies to make sure cost is not a barrier to testing, and we hope to follow up on that topic with more specifics next week,” Geballe said.
Several private health insurance companies have said that they will cover coronavirus testing, to varying degrees.
Bloomfield-based Cigna is the first to announce it will cover the testing at no cost to its customers.
In a statement, Cigna president and chief executive officer David M. Cordani said the insurer will waive copays, coinsurance or deductible costs for customers enrolled in employer-sponsored plans, Medicare Advantage, Medicaid and individual and family plans available through the Affordable Care Act.
“During this time of heightened concern, Cigna's role is clear,” Cordani said. “We will do everything we can to help contain this virus, remove barriers to testing and treatment, especially for seniors and people who are chronically ill, and give peace of mind to those we serve.”
Health providers are preparing for an influx of sick patients, and Dr. Danyal Ibrahim of Trinity Health New England said they want to avoid overdrowding at hospital emergency departments.
“We’re looking at ways on how can we, in a safe way, keep our patients home, where they don’t really come and show up in the ED to add extra burden to our hospitals or doctors’ offices,” he said. “One of the ways we’re exploring is the concept of triage centers.”
Discussion among health systems and state officials about triage centers are in preliminary stages, said Dr. John Rodis, president of Saint Francis. But ideally, he said they would be satellite locations where sick patients could go to get screened and tested for coronavirus.
They could be temporary tented sites, in office spaces or within other venues — but Rodis said mainly, it’s about “keeping (people) out of the hospitals, out of the emergency departments and out more in isolated areas” in order to free up emergency rooms for patients who need critical and emergency medical care, and limit the spread of coronavirus to patients with other medical needs.