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Denver drive-up COVID-19 testing facility postpones service Friday because of weather

State says weather concerns push service to Saturday
Posted: 1:21 PM, Mar 12, 2020
Updated: 2020-03-13 12:44:16-04
drive-up testing facility denver lowry covid 19 coronavirus

UPDATE (Friday March 13, 10:35): The CDPHE is postponing drive-up coronavirus testing at the Lowry facility in Denver until Saturday because of “weather-related concerns.”

“Current weather conditions put both people being tested and laboratory staff at risk. Cold temperatures can reduce the effectiveness of personal protective equipment (PPE) that protect testing staff from being exposed to the virus and passing it on to others,” the department said.

Testing will take place Saturday from noon to 2 p.m. The center will serve the first 100-150 people in line tomorrow, the state said.

More from CDPHE:

“Because Colorado now has capacity for private labs to conduct testing, CDPHE encourages anyone who is symptomatic or who believes they may have been exposed to COVID-19 to call or email their physician first for guidance, obtain a doctor’s order for testing, and request information about private providers where you can get tested. Always call first before reporting to a health care facility for testing.

“Providers such as UCHealth, Kaiser Permanente, Children’s Colorado, and Stride Community Health Center have testing capacity.

“Any medical provider with a relationship with LabCorp or Quest Diagnostics can test, but be sure to contact your provider ahead of time because many providers have centralized sites for testing due to safety precautions.”

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DENVER – The Colorado Department of Health and Environment was working to set a cut-off point for the long line of cars and people waiting to be tested for COVID-19 at the Lowry Blvd. drive-up testing facility in Denver.

The line was taking people about 3-4 hours to get through Thursday around 11 a.m. and long lines were seen wrapping around the building, located at 8100 E. Lowry Blvd. in Denver. At 1 p.m., the CDPHE said it was trying to establish a cut-off point for the line and tell people who were seeking to go to the testing facility that they would have to wait until Friday to be tested.

Coronavirus in Colorado: COVID-19 latest updates across the state

The CDPHE initially said people who do not get tested Thursday but wish to be and were in line on Thursday will receive a note prioritizing their test Friday. The department said it was making the decision based on “resources and staff capacity.”

But later Thursday afternoon, the CDPHE said it was unable to provide notes to prioritize people for Friday.

Additionally, if people do not want to wait to be tested at the state drive-up testing facility, they can call their doctor for guidance and get a doctor’s order for testing at a private lab, which health care providers can provide people with information about.

By Thursday night, CDPHE officials said that due to the "overwhelming response" in the first two days, the drive-up testing facility would operate on a limited capacity.

The facility will now be open from noon to 2 p.m. The first 100 to 150 vehicles in the queue will have access to the drive-up testing facility, all others will have to seek testing from a private provider. Once again, you must call your doctor or your preferred health care facility first before going there for testing or treatment.

It's not clear if the Lowry drive-up testing facility will be open during this weekend. Earlier, state health officials said the testing facility would be open again on Monday. Denver7 is reaching out to the health department for clarification.

State health officials also said its hours of operation will be contigent upon safe weather. If unsafe conditions arrive - such as precipitation, wind or colder temperatures - the drive-up facility will close.

The state says that people should isolate at home while they await test results, which it hopes are turned around within 72 hours, depending on test volume.

The CDPHE said there seems to be a “great deal of unmet demand” for testing in Colorado and that since the state drive-up lab requires a doctor’s note, they don’t believe that many people are showing up without one. The state hopes to add an additional 50 staffers at the Lowry drive-up lab to try to meet demand.

The drive-up center in Lowry tested 160 people on Wednesday, the CDPHE said. People waited an average of 84 minutes for the test, and the tests took about 10 minutes to administer.

Pitkin County officials on Thursday announced it had opened a testing facility at the Aspen Volunteer Fire Department's Aspen Village location.

But local Pitkin County screening and testing was discontinued there on Thursday afternoon.

“For general information about how to take care of yourself and help prevent the spread of this virus in our community please call the Pitkin County Coronavirus Hotline at (970) 429-6186 staffed seven days a week 8 am to 8 pm,” the county public health department said. “If you are sick and require medical attention call your healthcare provider. If you have severe difficulty breathing you should call 9-1-1”

Gov. Jared Polis said he hopes the state will open more drive-up facilities in coming days.

People need a written or electronic note from a doctor or health care provider ordering the test in order for state health officials to perform the test at the drive-up facility. People need to meet the test criteria (which was updated on Thursday) in order for a doctor to give them a note, and they must also bring a photo ID matching the doctor’s note.

The state says if there is more than one person in a vehicle, each person tested must have their own doctor’s order. The state says people should be prepared for long wait lines and is telling people to bring water and other items for comfort while they wait. No restrooms are available at the site.

Polis said Tuesday that the state had 900 tests and was expecting an additional 1,500 by the end of the week from the federal government after Polis spoke with Vice President Mike Pence, the leader of the White House coronavirus task force, and Centers for Disease Control Director Robert Redfield.

Polis says that Colorado needs to increase its COVID-19 testing exponentially to try to keep up with the pace of a possible outbreak and to identify as many cases as possible as soon as possible in order to prevent a widespread outbreak and to mitigate severe cases and exposure to the most at-risk group of people over age 60 and people with weakened immune systems.

Redfield, the CDC director, on Wednesday morning said the federal government did not have plans to set up drive-up test centers, saying, “We’re trying to maintain the relationship between individuals and their health care providers.”

But Polis said Tuesday in a news conference that Colorado needed thousands more tests. In an interview on CNN Wednesday morning, he said that the drive-up testing sites were needed “in most states” and that in a state with a population the size of Colorado’s – nearly 6 million people live here – that the state needed to be able to do “tens of thousands of tests a day so that we can expand the criteria to anybody with flu-like symptoms.”

Colorado updated its testing criteria Thursday morning. Click here for the latest criteria to be tested for COVID-19.

Click here for the latest Colorado updates on COVID-19.