COVID testing up as CT infections rise and first omicron case detected in US

COVID testing in Connecticut has slightly increased in recent weeks, but is not at the level it was at this time last year, data shows.

COVID testing in Connecticut has slightly increased in recent weeks, but is not at the level it was at this time last year, data shows.

Adam Hushin / Hearst Connecticut Media

As cases COVID cases rise and the first infection linked to the omicron variant has been detected in the United States, testing for the disease has increased slightly in Connecticut, data shows.

As of last week, the seven-day average for new tests administered in Connecticut has hovered around 35,000 a day, according to state records. While higher than earlier in November, the daily tests are much lower than this time last year when Connecticut saw a week’s long spike in COVID-19 cases.

“I think we do more testing than just about any state in the country. I think that gives us more insight to what’s going on, we do more genetic sequencing so I think any of these new variants I think we’ll be ahead of the curve in terms of finding that out,” Gov. Ned Lamont said Wednesday.

On Wednesday, the state reported a positivity rate of 5.37 percent with 1,093 cases found among 20,343 tests. The daily positivity dropped from Tuesday’s 5.96 percent — the highest since January. Hospitalizations on Wednesday increased by a net of 20 patients for a total of 385 statewide, the most since late August.

Self-testing COVID kits, available at most pharmacies, have become more common this year, allowing people to quickly determine if they have the virus while in their home.

These convenient tests may be impacting the COVID case rate seen in Connecticut, according to officials, since only positive results tend to be reported.

“There’s a lot to that. The rapid antigen tests, the negative results never get reported to the state, the positive results do, so I think the positivity rate is definitely different than last winter or last year,” said Josh Geballe, the state’s chief operating officer.

Geballe said it could be causing the positivity rate to be higher now than it was at this point last year.

“It would be higher now because you’re not getting as many of the negative test results, people testing at home, as well as fully vaccinated people you have over 80 percent of the entire population of the state fully vaccinated, get tested a lot less these days. So, it’s a different metric,” he said.

And when a test comes back negative, there’s the potential for a “false negative,” where a COVID-19 infection is present despite the test results. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends if people think their test is inaccurate to speak to a health care professional to determine if more testing is needed.

While testing has dropped compared to last year, given widespread vaccination, the sudden arrival of the omicron variant has top health agencies urging an increase in surveillance and testing.

While little is still known about the strain, described last week by the World Health Organization as a “variant of concern,” some of the major test manufacturers have expressed confidence that their products can successfully screen for the new variant.

While cases from the variant were initially focused in southern Africa, the variant has been discovered in Europe, Asia and North America. On Wednesday, the White House announced the first omicron case in the United States, involving a man in California who tested positive on Nov. 22 after traveling to South Africa.

Abbott, which has one of the few federally approved home COVID-19 tests, said omicron has mutations to the spike gene, but its tests do not rely on this gene to identify the virus.

With the cases increasing in Connecticut, and a new variant appearing in the country, officials are continuing to focus on vaccine as an effort to limit the impact of COVID-19.

Lamont said the state is “trying to ramp-up boosters, trying to get boosters to every nursing home, bring them to places where people are working, make it easier for people to get a booster. ... It’s the best protection against delta and every other new variant out there.”