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Free, large-scale COVID-19 testing site to open in Denver

People in the Denver metro area experiencing symptoms can be tested at a site at the Pepsi Center.

DENVER — What will be the largest COVID-19 testing site in the state is slated to open Friday in the parking lot of the Pepsi Center.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, Gov. Jared Polis (D-Colorado) and other officials provided more details about the site during a news conference Thursday afternoon. While it has an initial capacity to test 500 people per day, the goal is to eventually double that.

Anyone with symptoms is encouraged to get tested, Hancock said.

Español: Pruebas gratis de COVID-19 en Denver

“I don’t want you to believe this is about anything other than getting people tested so that we can get on top of this virus and stay on this side of the curve,” Hancock said.

The site will be open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. It is not just for Denver residents, it's free, and no doctor’s note is required. To complete an initial screening, people should visit denvergov.org or call 311.

Residents need to register before coming to the site, and bring some form of ID. Results will be online within 72 hours, and people who test positive will receive follow-up contact from the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment. 

Testing will be set up in the parking lot on the west side of the Pepsi Center at 1000 Chopper Circle. Cars will be directed to enter on 7th Street at the intersection with Auraria Parkway. Because testing is primarily for individuals with symptoms, walking or biking up to the site is discouraged.

Patients who are unable to get to the testing site either because they’re too sick or don’t have transportation can access a mobile testing unit, Hancock said. That can be done by calling 311.

Polis said on Monday that the state now has enough tests for everyone who needs to get tested to do so, and said that 32 testing sites have been opened across the state.

"You remember originally, when there wasn't enough testing, the message that we said is. 'If you're sick, you just self-isolate,'" Polis said. "Whether it's COVID or not, you just stay at home. That can still be your choice, but we are now encouraging you to get tested."

The testing is free, with no out-of-pocket cost even for those with no health insurance. People who are symptomatic can get tested at one of the state's 32 community testing sites or by contacting their health-care provider. The state has a capacity to process 10,000 tests per day, but has not yet reached that number. 

Polis also encouraged asymptomatic essential workers, including health-care workers and first-responders, who have regular contact with the public, to get tested.

Colorado State University is partnering with the state to provide free testing for everyone at 30 nursing homes. The goal is to identify employees and residents who are potentially asymptomatic and unknowingly spreading the virus. 

There are two types of testing: a swab diagnostic test, which finds if a person currently has the virus, and an antibody blood test. The antibody test shows if the body has had a response to the virus, which shows whether that person has been infected. But it's too soon to know whether those antibodies mean a person now has resistance to the disease or can still spread the virus, the governor said.

Dr. Savita Ginde, chief medical officer of STRIDE, said at the news conference that STRIDE has done more than 10,000 tests at their clinics in Wheat Ridge and Aurora. She said they've seen a 21% positive rate with the swab diagnostic test and 10% positive rate with the antibody test.

COVID-19 background 

COVID-19 is a disease caused by a virus that first appeared in Wuhan, China, in 2019. Symptoms of COVID-19 can include fever, cough, breathing trouble, chills, muscle pain, sore throat and/or new loss of taste or smell. Most patients develop only mild symptoms. But some people, usually those with other medical complications, develop more severe symptoms, including pneumonia, which can be fatal.

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