Trumbull offers COVID testing for first responders

TRUMBULL — At a time when first responders are, like many other Americans, falling ill to a surge in COVID-19 cases, Alex Rauso’s crew is in pretty good shape.

Rauso is chief of the Long Hill Fire Department in Trumbull and, on Thursday, Jan. 6 he said zero of the roughly 30 volunteers on his team were out due to COVID.

One of the key factors in keeping his staff healthy is that, since November 2020, Trumbull Emergency Medical Services has collaborated with Progressive Diagnostics laboratory and the Trumbull Health Department to provide COVID PCR tests to Trumbull employees — particularly first responders — and their families.

“The testing allows us to check our people regularly and keep them in service or to take them out of service (if they test positive) so they don’t spread to other people,” Rauso said.

Even during this latest surge, when tests have been scarce, Trumbull EMS has managed to continue regular testing about 30 to 40 people a day, said EMS Chief Leigh Goodman.

The goal of all this is to keep the town’s first responders well so they can help others. And, from Rauso’s perspective, it’s worked.

“It’s basically keeping our staff healthy,” he said.

Goodman agreed that the regular testing has been “very successful.”

“I think by controlling the spread, it’s given us a great way of protecting our team,” she said.

Early on in the pandemic, Goodman got the idea of providing tests to first responders to help prevent spread among this crucial group. She reached out to Progressive, which provided test kits and training support, along with other services. The testing is done at no cost to the town, using volunteers.

The service is by appointment only, and is provided as a drive through service, with employees remaining in their vehicles while they receive the PCR test. Goodman said the she doesn’t have the ability or staffing to run mass clinics, though TEMS will increase its testing hours or offer additional pop up one day clinics during peak surge periods.

“The guys test early and if someone is positive they’re sent home,” she said.

Goodman said the service has been popular since it started. As COVID cases began to decline it early fall, she thought she might be able to close the clinics down. Then omicron, the highly contagious COVID variant, hit — and with it, urging that people get regularly get tested for COVID.

The surge has led to test shortages nationwide, but Goodman said Trumbull planned in advance for a possible spike in late November or early December, and has a “good supply” of tests. All the same, she said, tests have been prioritized for first responders and the symptomatic. She’s also quick to point out “we’re not taking tests away from anyone who needs them.”

Rauso, for one, commended Goodman for working to make the service available. “She’s been great at getting our people in there (to be tested) when needed,” he said.