By Thane Grauel
WESTPORT — The town’s Emergency Management Team distributed 750 COVID-19 at-home test kits to residents Monday afternoon, but others waiting in long lines had to be turned away.
The supply was far less than the originally planned 3,420 test kits promised by the state last week, and they went fast.
The distribution at Greens Farms Railroad Station started at 2:35 p.m., 25 minutes earlier than the announced 3 p.m. start time, and the lot was closed to any more vehicles just over an hour later.
Each driver, after providing proof of Westport residency, was given two kits. Each of those kits has two tests.
Fire and police personnel were on scene at the station to oversee operations, and to help direct traffic through nearby traffic choke points.
The entire process for distributing the much-sought-after COVID test kits in Westport lasted roughly four and a half hours, starting from about 11:30 a.m. Monday when First Selectman Jennifer Tooker first announced the distribution would take place later in the day.
Fire Marshal Nathaniel Gibbons said the distribution unfolded smoothly, and that officials decided to start early to relieve traffic congestion on surrounding roads.
Many residents, however, began lining up in their vehicles a couple hours beforehand. Word spread quickly after Town Hall’s 11:30 a.m. announcement.
Greens Farms Road was backed up all the way to the Sherwood Island Connector by 2:30 p.m. Many other approaches to the railroad station also were congested.
Robert Sohmer tried to get in line for the distribution before the announced start time, 3 p.m. But streets leading to the Greens Farms depot — including Turkey Hill Road South, Morningside Drive South and Maple Avenue South — were already jammed with cars.
“I ran some errands and came back,” he said, managing to get into the distribution lot in just half an hour.
Robert Flicker got into the lot after waiting about 50 minutes. He said he was grateful the town was distributing the test kits.
“They’re very hard to find,” he said.
A man who said his name was Bill was less enthusiastic. He’d been creeping along in traffic for an hour and 50 minutes.
“The police should have been dealing with this,” he said of the traffic heading to the site.
About 3:40 p.m., officials closed the parking lot to any new entrants, when the supply of test cartons was down to 200.
Gibbons said those last kits would be distributed to the cars already within the parking lot’s distribution point. The cars were queued in two rows, looping around the lot.
The town announced that by 4:15 p.m. all of the kits were gone.
More than 20 minutes after the lot was closed to new cars, a long line of traffic still remained on Greens Farms Road, stretching to the meadow at Nyala Farms.