DENVER – Colorado will receive 7,500 tests for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) this week and next week specifically to test health care workers and first responders in the state, the director of the state emergency operations center said Thursday.
Colorado Emergency Operations Center Director Mike Willis said Colorado received the initial 5,000 tests this week and is hopeful it will receive the remaining 2,500 tests next week.
The tests are coming to Colorado through a federal program at the Department of Health and Human Services that is supplying tests specifically for first responders and health care workers in order to keep them from spreading the virus at work if they are infected.
Colorado has also been testing health care workers and first responders with the limited supply of tests it does have, but Willis said that officials were “really excited” about the specific set of new tests.
He said that the tests for the two groups would be administered in northern and southern Colorado and on the Western Slope.
The CDPHE said Thursday afternoon that they and the EOC will start distributing 4,500 of the test kits to the health departments in Larimer, Mesa and El Paso counties. The state says only symptomatic workers will be tested in order to verify whether or not that have COVID-19 and to allow those who test negative to continue working.
“Colorado has continued to seek ways to expand our testing of critical populations. We are grateful to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for providing these testing kits for our crucial health care workers and first responders working on the front line,” Bookman said in a statement. “These kits will strengthen our medical capacity, allowing us to verify positive cases among first-line resources and work to keep them -- and the people they serve -- healthy.”
Willis said the extra and specific tests – they are not for the general public – would be a great opportunity to “absolutely protect the most critical component of the health care system – that is the people in it.”
“The longer we can protect those people, the stronger our health care system is, the longer it can last, the more capable it is when the surge comes,” Willis said.
He said that the state was working concurrently on other strategies to bring up mass testing in Colorado “as rapidly as we can” but that protecting the health care system from being overloaded when the surge hits the state was the most key piece to the state’s strategy at this point.
Colorado’s statewide stay-at-home order went into effect at 6 a.m. Thursday. Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment incident commander for the COVID-19 response Scott Bookman said that it will take “several weeks” for the data to show the effects of the order and other social distancing measures that have been put in place in the past two weeks.
There were 1,086 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Colorado as of the release of data at 4 p.m. Wednesday, though that public data is often a day behind CDPHE data, Bookman said.
But he said the state does not currently have a true estimate of how many times more cases there are in Colorado compared to the number of lab-confirmed cases.
“We all do believe there are certainly several thousand more than we have reported at this time,” Bookman added.
For the latest on COVID-19 in Colorado, click here.