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West Hartford, Jackson Labs team up to improve testing for first responders

The test results will be turned around within 24 hours which helps police and fire understand who may have the virus
Credit: FOX61


From the Town of West Hartford:

The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine (JAX-GM) of Farmington, CT, and the Town of West Hartford will announce a collaboration to improve COVID-19 testing for the Town’s first responders and their families.

The partnership allows West Hartford paramedics to test the Town’s first responders and bring their COVID-19 samples directly to JAX for analysis. 

The test results will be turned around within 24 hours, a benchmark JAX-GM established when it began a testing partnership with the State of Connecticut in March. This will give police and fire leadership a more accurate understanding of how the virus impacts their workforce and allow for rapid test results as part of the analysis for who can, should, or should not be at work.  

The collaboration was facilitated by Mayor Shari Cantor and Edison Liu, M.D., president and CEO of The Jackson Laboratory and Charles Lee, Ph.D., FACMG, scientific director of The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine. 

“I am so pleased that we can equip our paramedics with the tools to expedite testing of those who are on the front lines of this pandemic and who put their lives on the line for us every day. Keeping our first responders healthy and safe protects our community and is in the Town’s best interest,” said Mayor Shari Cantor.

“When we embarked on this program as a concept, we were facing real challenges with testing and an uncertainty over who in the ranks of the Fire and Police Departments may benefit from getting tested. Even as other testing options became available, we thought that this collaboration with The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine was important to improve our ability to understand conditions and maintain a healthy workforce,” said Fire Chief Greg Priest.

The result was the Public Safety COVID Testing (PSCT) program, which is being rolled out today in partnership with JAX.  

Whenever a first responder needs to be tested, he or she will go to Fire Station #2 on Brace Road.  A swab or saliva sample would be taken, and then processed at JAX-GM. Results are expected to be returned within a day.  HIPPA protocols and the Department of Public Health regulations are maintained at all times.

A quick understanding of test results will be an additional tool to help keep first responders’ quarantines to a minimum, stabilize the workforce and offer support to their families. Each time a person is taken off-line, it puts stress on the whole department.

“Our obligation as leaders is to ensure that we have enough responders to fulfill our mission and at the same time trying to support and assist our responders and their families,” said Fire Chief Greg Priest.

West Hartford’s PSCT program was spearheaded by EMS Officer Kristin Fillian who took the vision and created the protocol. Dr. Charles Johndro of Hartford Hospital who oversees West Hartford’s paramedics was a key advocate and facilitator, serving as the program director.

“Testing is one of the key elements of our way out of this pandemic,” said Aimee Krauss, director, West Hartford-Bloomfield Health District.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that as many as 25-35% of people with COVID-19 have no symptoms but are capable of spreading the illness to other people.

“The more we test, the more we know,” Krauss said.

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