Queen of Saints Hall serving as COVID testing site

BRIDGEPORT—To help combat the spread of COVID-19 in the greater Bridgeport area, the Queen of Saints Hall of the Catholic Center is now being used as an on-site location for both COVID-19 and antibody tests.

The Diocese of Bridgeport announced an agreement with Progressive Diagnostics, LLC of Trumbull, a clinical medical laboratory, which has begun providing high-volume, COVID-19 PCR (saliva) testing along with antibody blood tests (beginning next week) that are FDA EUA approved.

“We’re very proud of this initiative, which is offering an essential service to help flatten the curve and safeguard lives in our community,” said Deacon Patrick Toole, episcopal vicar for administration of the Diocese of Bridgeport.

“Masks, testing and contact tracing are essential until there is a widely available vaccine, and this offers a timely new option for people, particularly as the pandemic is expected to surge over the next few months,” said Deacon Toole.

Curt Kuliga, entrepreneur, CEO and founder of Progressive Diagnostics in Trumbull, said, “Our whole purpose is to expand access to quality affordable care. We are simply blessed to be in partnership with the Diocese of Bridgeport and the forward-thinking leadership of Deacon Pat Toole, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano and many of the clergy and staff, who are committed to expanding care in their communities during the pandemic.”

“The collaboration with the Church will not only provide access to FDA EUA authorized PCR saliva testing, but it will also add jobs as we continue to expand patient collection centers throughout the diocese. The Church has an altruistic spirit, which aligns well with our company’s thinking.”

Brian Bellows, chief strategy officer of Progressive Diagnostics, who is a parishioner of St. Catherine of Siena in Trumbull and has served for many years on the board of St. Joseph High School in Trumbull, has been instrumental in forging the partnership, which may bring additional test sites to other diocesan locations.

Deacon Toole said the decision to open Queen of Saints Hall for testing is consistent with the considerable health and safety protocols the diocese has introduced in its parishes and schools since the beginning of the pandemic.

He said that Progressive Diagnostics has designed a system that ensures all patients are socially distant and professional specialized cleaning is performed between visits and every evening. As an added measure, the HVAC units that supply the heat/ac to the hall are being equipped with state of the art Air Scrubber ActivePure Technology to purify the air and reduce exposure to bacteria and viruses, FDA EUA approved.

“Their primary concern is the safety and health of their patients, Catholic Center employees and the community. Accordingly, they implemented policies and procedures to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus,” Deacon Toole said.

Queen of Saints Hall provides a separate entrance for those who come to the building for testing. The side door to the hall, adjacent to the parking lot, also allows for easy access, while the rest of the 75,000 square foot building remains off-limits.

All testing is by appointment only with times available between 9 am-5 pm Monday through Friday during the week and a separate drive-up testing on Saturdays 9 am–3 pm within the parking lot.

Testing results are generally available within 48 to 72 hours. Progressive Diagnostics accepts all forms of health insurance.

Catholic Center building unites two eras of pandemic

The repurposing of part of the 75,000 square foot Catholic Center campus to respond to a pandemic unites two eras in the Church and in Bridgeport history.  While the facility now houses the Offices of the Bishop and many diocesan ministries and programs, much of the building history is related to its role as a contagious disease hospital.

First opened in 1917 in response to the Spanish flu, it was hailed as a modern hospital, the structure was known to generations of area residents as Englewood Hospital, as it treated successive waves of scarlet fever, mumps, measles and polio.

The original 1917 building is the 25,000 square foot, u-shared, core carved into the hillside of what was then a remote, 10-acre site. The west wing was added in 1929 along with a 25-room nurses residence The east wing was opened in 1937 to meet the rising need for health care in the growing city.

The building was expanded again in 1962 when the Diocese of Bridgeport purchased the site as the home of Notre Dame Girls High School after the city closed the hospital. The project, which included bump-outs in back, interior redesign, creation of 29 classrooms and a new gym, now the Queen of Saints Hall.

According to officials at the University of Connecticut Health Center, the 1918 Spanish flu has been described as the catastrophe against which all modern pandemics are measured. Health experts believe that as many as 100 million people around the globe may have perished in the outbreak—which is believed to have infected up to 40 percent of the earth’s population.

The Spanish flu had a grim efficiency that rivaled the medieval plague. Many of the 1918-19 victims woke up in full health and were dead within 24 hours—dying of suffocation after their lungs filled with fluid. Eight thousand people died in Connecticut during the last four months of 1918.

The Catholic Center is located at 238 Jewett Avenue in Bridgeport.