Gov. Polis: Colorado must ramp up COVID-19 testing efforts

By: - July 23, 2020 5:48 pm

Gov. Jared Polis announces a statewide mask order in response to COVID-19 during a news briefing on July 16, 2020. (Governor Jared Polis Facebook)

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct a quote in which Gov. Jared Polis said the state lab averaged 3,000 tests a day.

As cases of COVID-19 continue to climb in Colorado, the state plans to look at testing with a renewed focus, Gov. Jared Polis said at a news briefing July 23.

Due to a national backlog, some tests take 10 or 12 days to be processed, Polis said. He called such a turnaround time “frankly worthless” — because most people who develop severe cases will be hospitalized seven or eight days after experiencing their first symptom.

“Our (daily) average has been over 10,000 (tests) for the last week, over 3,000 a day for the state lab,” Polis said, praising the employees of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Laboratory Services Division for scaling up quickly.

State data from CDPHE shows around 30,400 tests completed by commercial labs and 11,300 by CDPHE for July 19 through July 22. For July 12 through July 18, a total of around 42,100 tests were completed by commercial labs and 20,000 by CDPHE.

“Now, to cover all of our bases, we want to diversify and expand our testing capacity as much as possible,” Polis said, saying that Colorado has received permission from the federal Food and Drug Administration to “cut through red tape” in the normal regulatory process for validating a saliva test developed by researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder.

The World Health Organization recommended in May that the test positivity rate in a given state or country not exceed 5% before government lifts public health restrictions. That means jurisdictions with higher rates need to increase testing.

For the week ending July 18, Colorado’s positivity rate was 5.07%, according to CDPHE. That’s an increase from the previous week’s positivity rate of 4.54%.

The last time Colorado’s weekly positivity rate exceeded 5% was the week that started May 24.

CDPHE is still advising those with COVID-19 symptoms — such as fever, cough or shortness of breath — to get tested, and says it “may be advisable” for asymptomatic people who’ve closely interacted with a COVID-19-positive person to do the same.

Throughout Colorado, there are 50 community testing sites where testing is generally free for those with symptoms. Some sites have more specific eligibility criteria.

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Faith Miller
Faith Miller

Faith Miller was a reporter with Colorado Newsline covering the Colorado Legislature, immigration and other stories.