COVID-19 Testing Waits Starting to Look Like In-N-Out Lines

A look at the line for COVID-19 testing at a newly opened Jefferson County site on November 22.
A look at the line for COVID-19 testing at a newly opened Jefferson County site on November 22.
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The crazy lines outside the new In-N-Out Burger location in Aurora have more in common with waits to get COVID-19 testing in metro Denver than health officials would like. A just-opened testing center in Jefferson County was promptly overwhelmed on November 22 and had to close hours early — and Denver opened a new testing location today, November 23, in part because one of the sites created to deal with demand following the closure of the Pepsi Center testing facility had turned into a pandemic-era clusterfuck.

This isn't the first time such a scenario has arisen. Back in July, we shared our account of testing problems at the Pepsi Center, including queues of cars that extended all the way through the mammoth parking lot and onto Auraria Parkway. But unprecedented spikes in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, not to mention the impending Thanksgiving holiday, have created even greater strains on the system lately.

The testing operation at Paco Sanchez Park, at 1290 Knox Court, is a case in point. The Denver Department of Public Health and Environment shut it down on November 17 "due to traffic and safety concerns," and is now launching a new site at Ruby Hill Park, 1200 West Florida, in an effort to spread the patients around. The Ruby Hill location was scheduled to debut at 8 a.m. this morning, and city reps hope it will remain open until 4 p.m. — if supplies last that long. To accommodate the launch, the Paco Sanchez location will be closed November 23 through November 29 but is expected to reopen after that. In the meantime, testing continues at the city's two other neighborhood sites: Green Valley Ranch Pool, at 4455 Jebel Street, and Denver Human Services East, at 3815 Steele Street (click for more details).

If anything, the situation in Jefferson County has been even messier. On November 17, testing at Jeffco Stadium was cut off at 9 a.m., just an hour after opening, because its meager supply of 120 tests had already been exhausted. On November 22, Jeffco set up a new site at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds, 15200 West Sixth Avenue Frontage Road in Golden. But the flood of folks needing testing soon depleted the 2,000 tests available, with Jefferson County Public Health tweeting that it had reached capacity at 1:18 p.m. that day — and given the length of the line seen in the photo at the top of this post, it's surprising the plug wasn't pulled sooner.

In addition to the fairgrounds site, Jeffco is launching a mobile COVID-19 testing van that will provide free testing at several mountain communities and neighboring counties. Here's the upcoming schedule, which begins this week:

Mondays — Bailey

Bailey Public Library
350 Bulldogger Rd, Bailey, CO 80421
8 a.m.-2 p.m.

Tuesdays — Conifer
Our Lady of the Pines Catholic Church
9444 Eagle Cliff Rd, Conifer, CO 80433
8 a.m.-2 p.m.

Wednesdays — Idaho Springs (first stop on Dec. 2)

Clear Creek County EMS
411 CO-103, Idaho Springs, CO 80452
8 a.m.-2 p.m.

Thursdays — Littleton/Larkspur

Sterling Center
8155 Piney River Ave,
Littleton CO 80125
8 a.m.-Noon

Larkspur Town Hall
8720 Spruce Mountain Rd,
Larkspur, CO 80118
2 – 6 p.m.

Fridays — Deckers/Sedalia

Deckers Community Center
8570 Hwy 67, Sedalia, CO 80135
9 a.m.-1 p.m.

Saturdays — Larkspur

Ponderosa Retreat and Conference Center
15235 S Furrow Rd, Larkspur, CO 80118
8 a.m. – Noon

Sundays — Evergreen

Buchanan Recreation Center
32003 Ellingwood Trail,
Evergreen, CO 80439
9 a.m.-2 p.m.

The vans can only administer 300 tests per day at each location, so it's unclear how much pressure they'll relieve from the fairgrounds site. But the wait will probably be shorter than the one for a Double Double.

At least for now.

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