Denver is opening a new drive-up COVID-19 testing site Friday, lauded as the largest free testing site in Colorado and a significant step toward increasing the state’s testing capacity.
The goal is to ensure everyone who needs testing is able to get it, regardless of where they live, Mayor Michael Hancock said during a Thursday afternoon news conference. He also made it clear that no one will ask about citizenship status.
“I don’t want you to believe that in any means this is about anything other than getting people tested and making sure that we get on top of this virus and stay on this side of the curve so that we can begin to restore and repair and once again reignite our economy and the healthiness of our people,” he said.
Coloradans who are displaying symptoms of COVID-19 can get tested for the virus from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily at the Pepsi Center 1000 Chopper Circle. The testing center will be closed on holidays, including Memorial Day. People are asked to check the symptom tracker on the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s website to see if they qualify before going to the testing site.
Anyone who wants to get tested must register online and bring a document verifying their name. Testing will take place in the parking lot on the west side of the Pepsi Center. Entry will be from 7th Street at the intersection with Auraria Parkway, and walking or biking to the site is discouraged.
Denver residents who are physically unable to make it to the testing site can call 311 to have a mobile unit sent to help.
Those who get tested are asked not to get re-tested for at least seven days.
Gov. Jared Polis joined Hancock at the news conference Thursday, noting that those who use Denver’s site can expect much shorter waiting times than when the state first opened its drive-thru site in Lowry.
“This is easy to get tested,” Polis said. “We’ve now reached a point, by the way through a lot of hard work …. to have enough tests and enough testing capacity for it to be free, easy and quick.”
When the state opened its drive-thru testing site in March, it was one of the first in the country, Polis said. “So everybody went there. People drove an hour, two hours to get there. Now, we have 34 community testing sites across the state.”
Health officials in Aurora and Westminster on Friday announced the opening of two free testing sites. Tests will be administered from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays in Walmart parking lots at 7155 Sheridan Blvd. in Westminster and at 14000 E. Exposition Ave. in Aurora, a news release stated.
The technology for testing has also changed. It no longer requires a medical professional with personal protective equipment to insert the swab. Patients will give themselves a nasal swab that will be sent to LabCorp for analysis. Results can be expected within 72 hours.
Polis urged Coloradans to continue social distancing measures as Memorial Day weekend arrives, limiting activities to groups of 10 or less. About half the people who have the virus don’t know they have it because they’re not displaying symptoms. One in 300 Coloradans are contagious with coronavirus, Polis added.
If people don’t heed the health recommendations, “that would mean we would move backward, our hospitals will fill up again and communities that were directly affected would have to take additional steps to keep communities safe,” Polis said.
Polis set a goal for testing 10,000 people per day across the state. The Denver site has a goal of testing 500 people per day but has the capacity to increase to 1,000 daily, Hancock said.
Denver used $3.5 million from the federal CARES Act to fund the testing site, according to the city’s Joint Information Center.
“This testing site will enable us to have data to understand what this spread is all about and what does it look like in the city and county of Denver and frankly the metro area,” public safety director Murphy Robinson said.
For more information on the drive-up testing site or to make a reservation, go to denvergov.org.
Polis also announced Thursday the details of a state partnership with Colorado State University, which will test asymptomatic nursing home workers and residents in up to 30 facilities over an eight-week period.
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