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Colorado health officials encourage anyone with COVID-19 symptoms to get tested

State health officials provided an update on coronavirus testing in Colorado during a briefing on Thursday.

DENVER — Officials with the Colorado Department of Health and Environment (CDPHE) encouraged any Coloradan who has symptoms of COVID-19 to get tested during a remote news briefing on Thursday.

As cases in the state continue to rise, CDPHE discussed the importance of getting tested and self-isolating while awaiting those test results.

"We need to change our culture right now in Colorado," Dr. Eric France, CDPHE'S chief medical officer said. "We need to all step up and take on the accountability and the moral requirement of being tested if we have symptoms."

CDPHE said those who have been exposed to somebody with COVID-19 should get tested seven days after the exposure, and quarantine for a full 14 days while awaiting test results, even if the results are negative.

State health officials emphasized the continued importance of social distancing, hand-washing, wearing a mask and avoiding gatherings so that health officials don't have to rely solely on test results in managing the virus.

CDPHE also discussed Thursday the different types of tests available for COVID-19.

Sarah Tuneberg, CDPHE special COVID19 advisor, said molecular-based testing, specifically PCR tests, remains the "gold standard" in coronavirus testing and usually requires collecting a nasal swab or saliva sample.

Tuneberg said while PCR tests are able to detect current or recent infection from COVID-19, they are not useful in determining past exposure in fully recovered patients. 

Antigenic testing, which is becoming more widely available and is similar to rapid flu testing, can quickly detect fragments of proteins found on or or within the virus that causes COVID-19, Tuneberg said. She said results can come back within 15 minutes to an hour. 

"These tests are recommended for use within the first seven days of symptom onset, and are most effective when someone is symptoms," Tuneberg said. 

Tuneberg said while antigen test can be less expensive and offer quicker results, they are not as sensitive as PCR tests.

Tuneberg also discussed serological testing, which looks for antibodies in the blood and can detect the body's immune response to the infection caused by the virus, rather than detecting the virus itself.

Those tests, according to Tuneberg, can sometimes give a false sense of safety to patients because health officials still don't know how long immunity may last following a COVID-19 infections.

Dr. Emily Travanty, CDPHE interim director of the state public health laboratory, encouraged anyone who is symptomatic to get tested at one of the more than 50 community testing sites around the state.

"Testing in the state of Colorado is far more accessible and we have a bunch of free, easy test sites to go to," Travanty said. "We're working really hard on building robust maps that show people where they can get a test."

According to CDPHE, 1,039,775 people have been tested in the state as of Wednesday, up from 1,032,545 the day prior, and all 64 counties are reporting cases.

RELATED: Colorado coronavirus latest numbers, Oct. 15

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