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Colorado state lab can now test for coronavirus

The state lab has the capacity to test up to 160 samples per day. As of Monday, Colorado has no known cases of coronavirus.

DENVER — The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) can now test for the coronavirus (COVID-19) at its state laboratory, health officials announced Monday.

"Up until this point, all testing for COVID-19 has been taking place in Atlanta, Georgia at the Centers for Disease Control," said Dr. Rachel Herlihy, State Epidemiologist. "But, here on out, we're going to be doing that testing here and so that means we'll be able to get results faster and it also means that we'll really be able to make decisions and potentially do more testing than we've been able to do previously."

With current staffing and equipment resources, the lab has the ability to test up to 160 samples each day. Results are expected to be available within 24 hours, the CDPHE said.

The test will be used for people who meet the criteria for COVID-19 testing only, and will not be available to the general public. Before now, testing had only been done by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“Being able to confirm or rule out cases of COVID-19 at the state level allows us to be more nimble in responding to and controlling this disease if it occurs in Colorado,” said State Lab Director Scott Bookman. “The time frame for testing cases should be quicker than ever.”

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Colorado currently has no known cases of coronavirus.

The CDPHE said there are three circumstances where public health may decide that a patient needs to be tested:

  1. The patient has a fever OR signs/symptoms of lower respiratory illness, such as cough or shortness of breath, AND the patient has been in close contact with someone confirmed with COVID-19, within 14 days of when symptoms started. 
  2. The patient has a fever and signs/symptoms of lower respiratory illness (and other diagnoses such as influenza have been ruled out), AND the patient recently traveled to parts of the world where infection rates are high or community spread is occurring, within 14 days of when symptoms started. 
  3. The patient has a fever with severe lower respiratory illness that requires hospitalization AND other diagnoses such as influenza have been ruled out.

"So, we really want to make sure that the testing is happening where it's appropriate, right, for individuals who do have risk," Herlihy said.

Health officials in Washington state announced four new deaths from the new coronavirus on Monday morning, bringing the total death toll in the U.S. to six as more states are announcing their first confirmed or presumptive cases. 

The CDPHE put together a list of resources for Coloradans wanting to learn more about the virus.

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