Mobile coronavirus test sites in Waterbury critical to healthcare for underserved neighborhoods

New Haven

WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — Mobile coronavirus testing sites have been made available across the state. new, free mobile testing siteS in Waterbury are working to fill the gap in healthcare access in the Brass City’s underserved communities.

At the mobile testing sites at Duggan School on Porter Street and the Waterbury PAL (Police Activity League) headquarters on Division Street put on by Trinity Health of New England, residents of Waterbury can walk – or drive – up and get tested for coronavirus with or without insurance, with or without an appointment, and for free.

Frances Durante is a Waterbury resident; she is 80-years-old; her husband is 90. Both are concerned about the coronavirus because they’re in one of those vulnerable population groups because of their ages. But, they’re getting good news when it comes to protecting themselves: the new testing site on Division Street.

“I think it’s very good to help people who can’t get around and do things like this. It’s right there,” Durante said.

Waterbury’s Director of Emergency Management, Adam Rinko tells News 8 the city and Trinity Health worked out an agreement. The result: Trinity Health of New England would open the mobile sites for free as long as the city provided the space and necessary equipment for the sites to function.

Thursday morning, canopies and tents were deemed necessary because it started to pour. Unfortunately, because of the rain, they had to close the site early. But, before they did, 30 people showed up early in the day and were able to get in line and get their free tests.

“It’s kind of disappointing,” said Kim OMeara of the weather-induced early closure. OMeara works for Trinity Health which runs St. Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury. “This is a big team that works together to put this whole thing into play.”

It is actually one of two new mobile sites in Waterbury for the team at Trinity Health. The other one is held every Tuesday at the Duggan School (9 a.m.- 4 p.m. weather permitting). Earlier this week, the weather was perfect and they were able to give out free coronavirus tests to a number of Waterbury residents.

The goal is to make COVID-19 testing more accessible to more people who cannot head to the drive-up testing sites at St. Mary’s Hospital or at Waterbury Hospital.

“People with poor access to healthcare, poor access to vehicles, transportation, may have not been tested primarily due to the fact they just simply did not have the means to get to the hospital,” Rinko said.

Rinko also telling News 8, Trinity Health and Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary worked out the plan to make the testing more accessible to more people. Waterbury State Rep. Geraldo Reyes says it is imperative that the city test as many people as possible.

“This is crucial to the poor and working poor communities,” Rep. Reyes said. “Unfortunately Waterbury is still second in the state in terms of the number of deaths associated with COVID-19, which is 184.”

Rep. Reyes says he’s been pushing to let Governor Lamont know of the need for mobile testing in Waterbury.

News 8 interviewed Rep. Reyes at the Community Health Center of Waterbury on North Elm Street. They’ve been doing free coronavirus testing every day of the week for about a month.

You don’t have to have insurance, an appointment, or a car. You can walk right up, like one man named William did with his girlfriend Thursday afternoon. William’s girlfriend urged him to get tested after seeing what her sister went through. Her sister contracted the coronavirus and beat it.

“At first she didn’t want to be tested until she got the symptoms,” said Shieka West. “I feel everybody should be tested before the symptoms. Catch it while you can.”

They test about 30 to 40 people a day at the Community Health Center of Waterbury. They also have free mobile testing in Hartford, Meriden, New Britain, and Stamford.

As for Trinity Health’s new site at PAL in Waterbury, they’ll try again next Thursday for better weather. Same for Trinity’s new mobile site at the Duggan School. Both will be open from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. weather-permitting. The Duggan School site will be open every Tuesday. The PAL site will be open every Thursday. You can walk up with no appointment or prescription necessary. The testing is free and available to anyone 6 months and older.

Since the pandemic began, Trinity Health of New England has provided COVID-19 testing to over 25,000 people served by the regional health care system.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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