Beginning Monday, Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks will add a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site open to travelers and all other community members.
The Connecticut Airport Authority is partnering with Hartford HealthCare to run the site in parking Lot 3 off Schoephoester Road. This will be the health organization’s ninth permanent testing location in the state.
Jeffrey Flaks, Hartford HealthCare president and CEO, said this is part of a larger effort to expand testing accessibility at a time when the coronavirus outbreak is picking up.
“Our testing across Hartford HealthCare has tripled over the past 30 days,” Flaks said at a news conference Wednesday.
An additional 2,042 positive COVID-19 cases have been reported since Tuesday, according to state data updated Wednesday evening. The daily positive rate stands at nearly 6% just a week before Thanksgiving, normally the busiest travel holiday of the year.
Dr. Jim Cardon, chief clinical integration officer, oversees the network’s permanent COVID-19 testing locations. He said demand at existing locations is growing -- evidenced by long wait times at several sites.
“We’re working diligently to try and meet that demand,” Cardon said, “and this just gives us a great opportunity to both help travelers who are coming in and out of the state, but also the communities, to where they have another place that they can come to get testing performed.”
Flaks said the network is expanding hours at its testing sites and hiring more staff to try to speed things up.
People who want to access the new drive-thru site will not need a prescription or a referral from a medical provider. Officials said those who are uninsured can still get testing and will not be held responsible for payment.
Drivers can stay in their cars while they wait for a medical professional to perform a nasal swab. The specimens will then be sent to one of four third-party laboratories that Hartford HealthCare has partnered with to run tests.
The site will be open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Bradley International Airport installed a testing service about a month and a half ago inside the terminal. Officials say that will remain in place strictly for passengers flying on any given day.
Kevin Dillon, executive director of the Connecticut Airport Authority, said COVID-19 has been “devastating” for travel and tourism -- passenger traffic at Bradley during the early weeks of the pandemic was down as much as 97% compared to the same time period last year.
That eased up a bit as mask wearing, social distancing and testing became more routine and reliable, he said.
“One of the things that we continue to struggle with in the travel and tourism industry is the travel advisories that exist in many states,” Dillon said. “We understand why ... those travel advisories are in place, but we felt it was very important to push for a testing option.”
Connecticut’s travel advisory requires that people coming from another state or region with a seven-day average test positivity rate of higher than 10% must self-quarantine for 14 days. However, travelers can avoid this if they can produce proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken up to 72 hours prior to arrival or anytime after.
“It’s been a very popular option with our travelers,” said Dillon, who hopes a second testing site will help travelers stay safe and provide an additional service for the greater community.
Dillon said passenger traffic will jump next week for the holiday, but it still falls short of what travel looked like at this time last year.
Public health experts are warning people that getting tested for COVID-19 is still only one part of containing the pandemic. Cardon urged people to take preventive actions like mask wearing, social distancing and hand-washing hygiene.
“They help keep each other safe, they help keep the vulnerable populations safe,” he said. “So, we just need to continue to stress that over and over again as people have become fatigued of doing this, but it’s an important step as we move forward.”