Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont Calls Up National Guard to Help Distribute COVID Tests, Masks

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont has announced that millions of COVID-19 tests and N95 masks will be distributed by 100 Connecticut National Guard members throughout the state this week.

Three million at-home COVID rapid tests will begin to be distributed alongside 6 million N95 face masks. These measures are two of several that the state plans to use in order to curb the rising number of COVID-19 cases.

Lamont made the announcement in a press release published on Monday.

"Connecticut is currently experiencing another surge in COVID-19 cases that is being driven mostly by the highly transmissible Omicron variant," said Lamont. "As a result, the demand for tests has outpaced the supply of testing available through our statewide network of about 400 sites. The week between Christmas and New Year's Day is likely to be a period of high transmission, and we have to get 2022 off to a good start by helping residents identify COVID-19 quickly and take those steps to isolate appropriately to curb any further spread."

Allocations will begin on Thursday, December 30, with the distribution of 500,000 iHealth kits. Each kit contains two tests that residents can use to see if they have COVID-19. The first round of distribution is expected to last a week, with further details still being finalized. Another million iHealth kits will also be distributed to schools around the state, with their distribution beginning in January.

"As these at-home tests arrive in Connecticut over these next several days and weeks, the National Guard will help provide support on behalf of the state to ensure that they are distributed to each municipality and school district," the governor said in a separate statement.

In the meantime, Lamont urged the importance of getting COVID-19 vaccines or booster shots. Around 87.8 percent of Connecticut's 3.5 million residents have received at least one shot of the vaccine.

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Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont announced on Monday that 3 million at-home COVID testing kits and 6 million N95 face masks will be distributed throughout the state. Above, Lamont delivers the State of the State address during opening session at the State Capitol on February 5, 2020, in Hartford, Connecticut. AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File

The Connecticut Department of Public Health, Connecticut Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security and Connecticut National Guard will oversee the distribution of the kits, with help from regional and local emergency management personnel. The initiative also will include the distribution of N95 masks.

Lamont also announced the state has purchased another 1 million tests that will be distributed to K-12 schools across Connecticut, for a total of 2 million tests. Those kits will also include a supply of N95 masks, which will begin being distributed in January and continue through the school year, as supplies last. Connecticut requires mask-wearing in schools.

The state public health department, meanwhile, is in the process of adding seven more community testing sites to the list of 23 state-sponsored sites. Information on the roughly 400 testing sites across Connecticut, both public and private, is available by calling 2-1-1 or visiting 211CT.org.

The activation is 100 percent federally funded.

New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker said he expects his city of about 130,000 will receive 30,000 two-dose test kits. He said the city will provide some to nonprofit agencies that help vulnerable groups, including people who are homeless, and also distribute kits to residents at two mass distribution events Friday and Saturday.

Elicker urged people returning to work or school and who will be exposed to others to pick up a test kit, which have been difficult to find due to high demand. N95 masks will also be distributed at those events.

The town of Rocky Hill, with a population of more than 20,000, announced it expects to receive 2,610 test kits for distribution beginning Thursday. A statement on the town's website called it a "short-term, interim solution with a limited number of test kits ... given the increased travel over the holidays."

The town said COVID-19 tests will be limited to residents with an immediate need, such as if they believe they've been exposed or have been experiencing symptoms, and if they traveled over the holidays and have been experiencing symptoms. Up to two kits per car or person will be distributed at the town hall and the fire station on Thursday, Friday, and Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of next week.

Some communities are planning drive-through pickups of kits and masks. In Killingly, for example, tests will be available to motorists in the town hall parking lot on Friday, from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. As in many communities, proof of residency will be required.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont announced on Monday that the state has ordered 6 million N95 masks to distribute to its citizens. Above, a close-up of a KN95 face mask on a wooden surface in San Ramon, California, on September 18, 2020. Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images