Colorado: Get drive-up virus testing at Denver Pepsi Center

DENVER (AP) — Colorado is opening its largest coronavirus testing center on Friday, a drive-up operation outside Denver’s Pepsi Center that initially will handle 500 tests per day.

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The center is one of at least 38 community testing sites opened statewide to supplement hospital and private testing. It comes after Gov. Jared Polis announced earlier this week that the state can process about 10,000 coronavirus tests daily.

“It’s quick, free and easy, so forget about those early days when you saw hours of waiting in line,” Polis said at a news conference with Denver Mayor Michael Hancock on Thursday. “If you’re ill, get tested. You owe it to yourself and to those around you to know whether you have a cold or COVID-19.”

The Denver center, located in a parking lot outside the shuttered sports and convention center, will be open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. seven days a week except for holidays.

Residents with symptoms such as fever, chills, cough or shortness of breath can register for a test online or call 3-1-1, a city help line. At the Pepsi Center site, they’ll self-administer a nasal swab and hand it to caregivers in a process that will take minutes — a far cry from the hours-long lines that formed outside the state’s first drive-thru testing center in Denver at the pandemic’s beginning.

Results will be available from LabCorp within 72 hours. City health officials will contact anyone testing positive for contact tracing purposes.

Hancock and Polis emphasized just proof of ID is needed — no doctors’ orders, no proof of immigration status.

“We’re not asking questions about citizenship,” Hancock said. “It’s all about boxing that virus in.”

Federal coronavirus aid funds supported the center’s opening, the mayor said.

Polis announced Monday that Colorado was offering free coronavirus testing to any residents with flu-like symptoms and workers who have frequent contact with others in public settings but feel healthy. The state can now process about 10,000 tests daily but is not using its full capacity, Polis said.

Previously, a lack of testing supplies and protective equipment limited testing mostly to people in hospitals and health care workers. People with less serious symptoms were told to isolate at home.

Colorado State University announced Thursday it is launching testing of workers and residents in as many as 30 nursing facilities in a $4.2 million partnership with the state. The testing will run eight consecutive weeks and is designed to quickly identify outbreaks.

Older adults and people with disabilities in nursing homes, assisted living and similar facilities have accounted for more than half of Colorado’s coronavirus deaths. At least 1,062 people have died of the disease in Colorado, the state health department says.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

In other developments:

— Denver health officials have ordered the closure of a United States Postal Service distribution center that handles all mail for Colorado and Wyoming, saying the facility has multiple confirmed cases of the coronavirus among its employees.

KUSA-TV reports state health officials confirmed five workers have tested positive for the virus at the facility that employs about 1,800. The Denver Department of Public Health and Environment issued the order Thursday, the day after investigators said they were denied full access to the facility.

The USPS said in a statement the closure notice did not cite any adverse findings and could affect the delivery of stimulus checks, prescription medications, personal correspondence and other vital goods delivered to more than 6.5 million customers in Colorado and Wyoming.

— Regular unemployment claims declined for a fifth straight week last week, but Colorado is paying record jobless benefits as the result of economic restrictions imposed because of the pandemic, the state labor department said Thursday. Last week, 17,825 people applied for regular unemployment benefits in Colorado, down from 22,483 the week before. In addition, 7,633 self-employed and gig workers filed claims for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.

— The first two cases of coronavirus among detainees have been reported at the immigration detention center in Aurora, the Tri-County Health Department said Thursday. The detainees are between the ages of 30 and 60, but no country of origin was reported, the department said.