State's public health lab approved to test for coronavirus

Gov. Ned Lamont announced Friday that the state Department of Public Health’s laboratory in Rocky Hill is now fully capable of conducting diagnostic testing for COVID-19, the coronavirus, after receiving necessary approvals from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration.

The new capability will save critical time in the diagnosis and treatment of any COVID-19 patients, according to state officials. Previously, all tissue samples from patients under investigation had to be delivered to CDC testing sites in Atlanta.

Connecticut has had no confirmed cases of coronavirus, and no patients in the state are under investigation for possible exposure.

“As our administration laid out this week, Connecticut is taking every necessary precaution and proactive step to ensure we are ready to respond to the novel coronavirus,” Lamont said. “Being able to test for the virus locally will allow us to conduct diagnostics and take every measure in our capability in an expedited fashion.”

Public Health Commissioner Renée Coleman Mitchell said the state’s response to the growing pandemic threat is significantly improved.

“With testing now available in Connecticut, we can turn around test results within 24 hours of getting samples,” she said. “This will improve the investigation of any future cases and tracking down anyone potentially exposed to the disease. Information is critical to managing an outbreak of any infectious disease, and testing at our state lab offers the greatest ability for all of us to make the best decisions to protect the health of the greatest number of people."

“Now is a time we all need to prepare for this virus to come to our state. I urge everyone to go online at for the latest information on how to protect your health and get ready,” she said.

Employers curtail travel

Some southeastern Connecticut companies with global operations said Friday they’ve curtailed their employees’ overseas travel.

Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment, which is partnering on the development of an integrated resort in Incheon, South Korea, has recalled its U.S. employees from the Asian country.

“The team based in South Korea is telecommuting and ex-pats returned to U.S. home locations to work remotely following CDC and KCDC recommendations,” Mario Kontomerkos, MGE’s chief executive officer, wrote in an email.

Pfizer Inc., whose research and development operations are based in Groton, issued a statement saying the company has provided workers in certain locations with “precautionary guidance on flexible working arrangements” and is “ensuring colleagues have the latest government direction relevant to their country and region.”

The company has suspended business travel to and from mainland China through March 16.

A spokeswoman for Electric Boat wrote in an email that the Groton-based shipbuilder currently has no employees traveling on business to affected areas and had not imposed travel restrictions.

“However, travel department is closely monitoring advice from the CDC and posted that to our intranet earlier this week,” Liz Power wrote. “I’m sending out a notice to employees soon to point them to this information as well as information from the CDC, and the CT and RI Departments of Public Health.”


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