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Polis says restaurants will get preliminary reopening plans by end of week

At a news conference, the governor also said the state is now encouraging testing for anyone with symptoms of the virus.

DENVER — Gov. Jared Polis (D-Colorado) said at a news conference Monday that the state now has enough tests for everyone who needs to get tested to do so.

He gave the update on Colorado's response to the COVID-19 pandemic on Monday morning at STRIDE Community Health Center in Wheat Ridge, which is among 32 community testing sites in the state.

Polis also addressed the reopening of restaurants and said the only way that can happen is with an increase in outdoor dining.

He said the state will release preliminary guidelines for restaurants on Monday or Tuesday and finalize the guidelines by the end of the week. The date that restaurants can reopen is expected to be announced May 25, and outdoor seating will be critical.

"I encourage every municipality to have that discussion," Polis said. "I hope every city is thoughtfully doing this. It's really important they open their sidewalks, parking lots and/or streets in the next few weeks ... because restaurants can't stay in business at a quarter- or half-capacity."

RELATED: Denver considers proposals for social distancing at restaurants, bars

On testing, Polis said, "You remember originally, when there wasn't enough testing, the message that we said is if you're sick, you just self-isolate. 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."

He said that on April 29, he set a goal for mid-May that anyone who had symptoms consistent with COVID-19 could get tested.

"I'm glad to say we're reached that milestone," he said.

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.

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

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 percent positive rate with the swab diagnostic test and 10 percent positive rate with the antibody test.

Polis said that with increased testing, the number of positive cases will go up. That doesn't mean there's an increase in cases but that the testing will catch positives cases that would otherwise have gone undetected.

Other subjects talked about at the news conference:

  • The state is working on guidelines for school districts and how they can reopen their buildings safely, the governor said. Those guidelines might include such steps as staggering passing periods and keeping classes or groups of students together throughout the day.
  • The state is developing a system in long-term care facilities for frequent testing of workers and residents -- "ideally once a week," Polis said -- to make screen for anyone who might have contracted the virus and remained asymptomatic.
  • If people stop engaging in social distancing and wearing masks, the number of COVID-19 cases will increase and the additional treatment facilities that were opened at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver and The Ranch in Larimer County will be needed. However, Polis said he's optimistic that Coloradans will continue to be responsible with their precautions.

COVID-19 background 

COVID-19 is a disease caused by a virus that first appeared in Wuhan, China, in late 2019. Symptoms of COVID-19 can include fever, cough and breathing trouble. 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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