A second Connecticut resident has died from COVID-19, Gov. Ned Lamont announced today during an appearance at The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine (JAX-GM), which will begin providing coronavirus diagnostic testing for state residents.
The man was later identified as 91-year-old New Canaan resident Bill Pike, described by Lamont as “a great friend of my father’s.”
“All of New Canaan is very saddened by the passing of our friend and long-time resident Bill Pike due to Covid-19,” New Canaan First Selectman Kevin Moynihan said. “Bill was a true gentleman and revered figure among his many friends and business colleagues on Wall Street. Our thoughts and prayers are with Bill’s wife Cathie and her family.”
JAX-GM in Farmington is partnering with the Connecticut Department of Public Health, UConn Health and Hartford HealthCare to provide the state with significant additional coronavirus diagnostic testing capacity.
JAX-GM will utilize its expertise in genomic solutions and its Connecticut-licensed CLIA (Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments) and CAP-accredited laboratory to test patient samples for a specific RNA signature unique to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
JAX-GM’s participation in the effort will enable the Public Health Department to quickly ramp up its diagnostic testing capabilities, said Charles Lee, director and professor at the Farmington lab.
Lee said the lab estimates that with its current staffing and equipment, it can test up to 150 samples per day. “We’re definitely going to need to ramp that up even further,” he said, noting that JAX-GM is already looking to increase its staff and equipment, so that the number of tests will go up “substantially more” in a matter of days.
The additional testing capacity will both allow the Public Health Department to diagnose patients who have the virus, and will allow researchers to learn more about the virus for broader epidemiological purposes, Lee said.
“We’re very hopeful we’ll have something soon,” he said.
“This is not a collection site,” Lee noted, asking residents to instead contact their physician or local hospital for information on where to go for sample collections to be used for testing.
He further noted that JAX’s lab in Bar Harbor, Maine is breeding a specialized strain of mouse to help researchers find a vaccine for the disease. Once infected with COVID-19, those mice will be shipped to other research labs for further testing.
Bruce Liang, dean of UConn Health’s School of Medicine, said the ultimate goal of the collaboration is to develop “a reliable test with a quick turnaround time.”
Lamont, who was credited for spurring the initiative, said that in-state testing had increased tenfold in the last week, “and I hope it will go up 10 times again in the next week or two.”
The governor further said that Connecticut residents will “get a better idea of what our emergency package looks like later this week and early next week.
“We are the bridge until the federal support comes through,” he said.