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Backus Hospital Expands COVID Testing Due to Community Outbreak

October 02, 2020

Due to a COVID-19 outbreak in the community, Backus Hospital and Hartford HealthCare are partnering with state and local authorities to increase the number of testing sites in the Norwich area.

The worldwide pandemic has certainly hit home. At an Oct. 1  press conference outside Norwich City Hall, health officials reported an 8.7 percent positivity rate at the Backus Hospital testing site on the main hospital campus — compared to just 1.75 percent statewide.

Matthew Kaufman, Vice President of Operations at Backus Hospital, said the sudden surge in southeastern Connecticut has already surpassed levels when the pandemic was at its peak.

Norwich will offer nine testing sites Oct. 2-4 at schools and health organizations — in addition to the eight sites Hartford HealthCare operates daily across Connecticut. Because of soaring demand, Backus will soon open a larger, more easily accessible site at Dodd Stadium on Stott Avenue in Norwich.

“As president of Backus Hospital — and as a nurse by training — I recognize and appreciate the importance of working together to address a public health concern, right here in the greater Norwich area,” said Donna Handley, President of Backus Hospital. “As we confront this virus, I want to stress that Backus Hospital is safe, ready and prepared to serve for our community.”

Backus has conducted nearly 30,000 COVID-19 tests since the pandemic hit in the past two weeks, and has acquired an additional 2,000 testing kits. It also recently expanded its testing hours to 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., seven days per week.

Dr. William Horgan, Medical Director of Quality and Safety at Backus, said the number of patients being admitted is already surpassing numbers from last winter. He said there is no one factor driving the uptick in cases, but people need to take into account that school is back in session, flu season is around the corner and cold weather will result in people spending more time together inside.

“Our community needs to understand the magnitude of the situation,” said Dr. Horgan, shown above at press conference.  “Because Eastern Connecticut was spared during the first spike, people might be inclined to take this lightly. That would be the worst thing we could do.”

The sense of urgency is already evident. Norwich schools are returning to virtual learning and sports have been put on hold.

Handley said Backus Hospital and Hartford HealthCare continue to prepare by ensuring there is enough personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators, and that policies and protocols are in place to keep patients and staff safe.

And, everyone can do their part to keep themselves and others safe, according to Dr. Horgan and Uncas Health District Director Patrick McCormack, including:

  • Wear masks.
  • Avoid social gatherings outside of your close family.
  • Limit travel.
  • Get tested.
  • Don’t go to work if you are sick.

“The bottom line, it’s our responsibility as a city to address this,” Mayor Peter Nystrom said at the news conference, “and that applies to every single resident. I’m asking every resident to take this as serious as we are here today.”