'Don't let your guard down': Bysiewicz touts anti-virus progress at Milford COVID test center

MILFORD — With COVID-19 vaccinations ramping up across the state, testing remains one of the most potent weapons against the spread of the virus, Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz said.

Bysiewicz visited the Community Health Center Inc. test facility at the Connecticut Post mall Monday, along with State Sen. James Maroney, retiring Rep. Kim Rose and Milford Mayor Benjamin Blake. The center is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday to Thursday and provides free tests on a walk-in or drive-in basis.

Even with more people getting vaccinated — 57,727 as of last week — Bysiewicz said the infection rate, which is around 7 percent, continues to climb.

“We’re trying to keep the rate as low as possible,” she said. “Don’t let your guard down.”

Health officials are predicting a rise in infection rates in the coming weeks due to the number of families that hosted holiday gatherings, against state health recommendations.

“The prediction is because of social activities around Christmas and the holidays, by mid-January, we’ll see a peak in the infection rate,” she said. “Now is the time we want to encourage people to be tested, even if you’re not having any symptoms. You can be asymptomatic and still be a carrier.”

Amy Taylor, vice president of the Community Health Center’s western region, said the group has seen a “tremendous increase” in the number of people seeking tests after the holidays. Demand has been so great, she said, that the center is using about 75 members of the state National Guard to speed the process.

“Without that support, we would not have the necessary people to staff our test centers,” she said.

According to Taylor, the location is administering about 300 tests per day, and looking to expand its hours to meet the demand. The Milford location is one of 18 that the center is operating in the state, in addition to mobile testing teams that travel to places like senior centers, homeless shelters and soup kitchens. Community Health Center is conducting about 10 percent of all the COVID tests in Connecticut, she said.

Opening a new location in Milford was important, Bysiewicz said, because New Haven County has the second-highest COVID infection rate in the state, behind Hartford County.

Blake agreed, calling the new test center “a huge resource for the community.”

Rose expressed her pride in Connecticut’s efforts to distribute the vaccine, which is among the best in the country. She also praised the state’s testing efforts.

“The No. 1 question I get asked by family members and constituents is, ‘How do I get tested?’” she said. “Now we have this area here. Just come on down.”

While the state’s ongoing efforts to vaccinate nursing home residents and essential workers in Phase 1A, which includes first responders and other health care workers, social distancing, mask wearing and hand washing remain critical, Bysiewicz said.

“Don’t let your guard down, even if you have been vaccinated,” she said.

deng@trumbulltimes.com