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Coloradans Line Up Saturday For Drive-Through COVID-19 Testing

Rae Ellen Bichell
Cars lined up for drive-through COVID-19 testing at the Denver Coliseum on Saturday, March 14, 2020.

As of Saturday evening, there were 101 cases of COVID-19 in Colorado. That number could climb as more testing becomes available.

Gov. Jared Polis said during a press conference Friday that while Colorado leads the nation in testing, the level of testing is still not where it needs to be.

KUNC's Rae Ellen Bichell visited the Denver Coliseum where drive-through testing is taking place, as well as the Colorado Department of Public Health and Education laboratory that analyzes the tests. She joined Colorado Edition host Erin O'Toole to talk about what she saw.

At the Coliseum, people wearing protective body suits, hoods, rubber gloves and masks worked the drive-through lab as a long line of cars waited outside white tents set up in the parking lot. Inside, members of the National Guard collected patient information, swabbed noses and throats, and put the samples inside baggies.

Only people with a doctor's order can get a test. The state health department said it plans to open up more drive-through testing centers "at strategic locations," but no information about where those will be has been posted as of Saturday.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has conducted approximately 800 tests since it started testing on February 28. Staff are working double shifts at the state lab where test kits are being analyzed.

Credit Rae Ellen Bichell / KUNC
Staff at the CDPHE state lab are working double shifts to test patient samples for COVID-19. As of March 14, 2020, approximately 800 tests have been conducted since testing began on February 28.

"So right now we are receiving enough testing kits to keep up with our demand, but it is increasing and we may have to start making decisions about how we prioritize testing," said lab director Emily Travanty. "And the decisions made about test priorities will be done in conjunction with our epidemiological staff as well."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says about 15,000 people have been tested so far. Public health officials say that's not enough to get a sense of where the outbreak is headed or how to contain it.

Symptoms include a fever, dry cough and shortness of breath. People with symptoms are asked to stay away from the emergency room so they don't potentially infect other people. Instead they should call their doctor, especially if they are considered to be at a higher risk.

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