COVID-19 testing expands across Colorado

Locations have been set up in Wheat Ridge, Aurora, Kiowa

Ellis Arnold
earnold@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 5/8/20

Nearly two months after COVID-19 testing got off to a rocky start in Colorado, the state announced expanded locations that appear to approach its goal of mass testing for Coloradans. And at some of …

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COVID-19 testing expands across Colorado

Locations have been set up in Wheat Ridge, Aurora, Kiowa

Posted

Nearly two months after COVID-19 testing got off to a rocky start in Colorado, the state announced expanded locations that appear to approach its goal of mass testing for Coloradans.

And at some of those sites, Coloradans don't need to be in a prioritized group — such as health care workers or first responders — to get tested.

Gov. Jared Polis unveiled a map that showed about 30 community testing sites as of May 7. Eventually, the state hopes to have a testing site in each of Colorado's 64 counties.

“We are working every day with public and private partners to expand testing across Colorado,” Scott Bookman, incident commander for the Colorado Department of Health and Environment, said in a news release. “But obtaining sufficient testing supplies continues to be the limiting factor in our ability to reach that goal.”

The state sent testing supplies to support 42 testing sites that will be operated by local public health agencies or community health providers, the state announced in late April. In an optimistic turn, Polis announced an order of more than 100,000 tests from South Korea in late April.

Here's a look at where and how people can get tested in the Denver metro area.

Testing starts to catch up

Colorado may have had one of the first drive-thru testing locations in the country in early March in Denver, Polis said at the time. The state had to close it early a couple times due to high demand, and it soon began sending testing resources to locations throughout the state.

Although state officials in following weeks noted the importance of increased testing as Colorado geared up to relax social distancing restrictions, it appeared Colorado did not achieve widespread statewide testing before the stay-at-home order ended in late April.

Now, one community health center in Wheat Ridge, two in Aurora and one in Kiowa — along with about two dozen others statewide, according to the state's map — are more readily allowing the public to get tested.

Not just priority groups

The state health department has advised testing providers to prioritize people in the following order:

• Hospital patients and health care workers.

• Patients in long-term care facilities or those in other residential settings, such as homeless shelters or prisons.

• Patients over age 65 and patients with underlying health conditions.

• First responders and critical infrastructure workers, such as those in the energy, water or agriculture sectors.

• People who work with vulnerable populations or in group residential settings.

• Other individuals (general public).

Although the specific groups should still be prioritized for testing, as capacity for testing increases, the state is encouraging health care providers to expand testing to all symptomatic people when feasible.

There's no special methodology to that, said Ian Dickson, a health department spokesman.

“If and when they are able to expand testing, we encourage them to do that,” Dickson added.

Drive-thru testing at the Aurora and Wheat Ridge locations is open to the general public, according to STRIDE Community Health Center, which operates those sites.

Coloradans should check with the testing locations to see if they are testing the general public.

Does it cost?

In March, there was confusion over the actual cost of a COVID-19 test. “Testing is free,” a March 10 state news release said.

The cost of medical visits related to getting tested was a different story.

Now, because of federal legislation, people with any kind of private health insurance should have free access to the COVID-19 test — along with any doctor visits associated with getting the test — with no co-pays, deductibles or co-insurance charged, according to the Colorado Division of Insurance.

Coloradans should check with their health care provider to be sure, though.

For Coloradans with Medicare, all of the costs are covered if a doctor orders a COVID-19 test, according to the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Under Colorado's Medicaid program — Health First Colorado — and the Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+), all the costs of testing and the doctors' visits associated with getting tested are covered, according to the state Department of Health Care Policy and Financing.  

Uninsured Coloradans should contact that office at 303-866-2993 to ask about options. To apply for Medicaid and Child Health Plan Plus, visit colorado.gov/peak.

Other testing

Local testing sites are one element of the state's mass testing plan, according to the state Unified Command Center, the multi-agency group of state officials working on Colorado's COVID-19 response. Other testing includes:

• Hospitals and health care facilities testing staff, inpatients and some outpatients.

• The state coordinates testing in partnership with local health agencies and the private sector to prevent, identify or mitigate outbreaks at places such as nursing homes and care facilities.

• The state collaborates with private partners on other testing options. For example, King Soopers announced a partnership with the state for drive-thru testing. The first testing occurred at the Auraria Campus in Denver in late April.

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