The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is pursuing a strategic approach to testing in the state to steward our state and country’s scarce resources in the face of widespread community transmission of COVID-19 in Colorado.

CDPHE is sending testing resources to specific communities that have not yet had testing that will yield vital information about how the disease is spreading. There is unprecedented collaboration between state government, local government, and the private sector to increase testing capacity over the next few weeks.

However, CDPHE is strongly advising the public: If you have symptoms (fever, cough, and shortness of breath), don’t wait for a test to self-isolate.

The state is expanding testing to include a temporary site in Pueblo on Thursday, March 19. The Colorado National Guard and Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment are supporting these efforts. CDPHE also plans to send testing resources to other locations later this week.

CDPHE is prioritizing testing in areas that have not been highly tested to better understand where the disease is occurring and respond. These sites will serve high-risk patients who have been pre-selected by area health care providers. They will not accept walk-up or drive-up patients.

“We are prioritizing testing in certain areas in order to better understand where and how much transmission is occurring,” said Rachel Herlihy, State Epidemiologist. “It’s critical that we are gathering data in all areas of the state, especially areas where there hasn’t been a lot of testing.”

The state health department is also strongly advising that if you have mild symptoms, stay home and avoid contact with others. Call your health care provider only if your illness becomes more severe, especially if you are experiencing shortness of breath.

If you have a medical emergency, call 911 and tell the dispatcher your symptoms. People who are not at high risk of severe illness may not need to be evaluated in person or tested for COVID-19. Not everyone with symptoms will be tested right away.

If you have mild symptoms, suspect you were exposed, and are either unable to get tested or waiting on test results:

Please stay home and isolate yourself until:

You have had no fever for at least 72 hours (without the use of medicine) AND

Other symptoms (cough, shortness of breath) have improved AND

At least 7 days have passed since your symptoms first appeared.

Anyone in your household you have had close contact with (within six feet for approximately 10 minutes) should self-quarantine for 14 days, even if you haven’t been tested for COVID-19.

Testing completed at the State Laboratory will be prioritized in order to:

Identify and monitor for community transmission of COVID-19.

Investigate potential outbreaks in health care and residential facilities.

Ensure a safe workforce in health care and other facilities serving high-risk populations.

Test critically ill patients for whom commercial testing will not provide timely enough results.

As state epidemiologists keep a close eye on this rapidly changing situation, recommendations will change. At the beginning of any public health outbreak, it’s important to test and confirm individual cases. This information helps public health responders confirm when and where transmission is happening in a community. However, once community spread becomes more evident, public health moves away from diagnosing the illness in individuals and toward identifying community outbreaks.

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From our sister paper The Chaffee County Times at

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