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Polis Deploys National Guard to Control COVID-19 Drive-Up Lab Crowd

Denver7's Sky Tracker captured this look at the drive-up mobile testing lab at 8100 East Lowry Boulevard.EXPAND
Denver7's Sky Tracker captured this look at the drive-up mobile testing lab at 8100 East Lowry Boulevard.

Editor's note: After the publication of this post, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and Governor Jared Polis announced that COVID-19 testing at Denver's mobile lab, which was scheduled to take place between noon and 2 p.m. today, has been canceled because of inclement weather. However, testing will be available tomorrow, March 14, during these same hours. Continue for our previous coverage.

Late on March 12, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment revealed new procedures at its drive-up COVID-19 testing lab at 8100 East Lowry Boulevard, after patient demand swamped the facility earlier in the day. The new plan includes slicing its already modest hours of operation in half and using the National Guard to help control the crowd.

During a March 11 press conference about Colorado's efforts to fight the COVID-19 virus, Polis had touted the lab, where individuals who met a designated criteria (specifically, a doctor's order and a photo ID with a matching name) could be tested for free between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. On that first day, he said, 160 people had been tested after a wait time estimated at 84 minutes, not counting an additional ten minutes for the test itself — a swab from an individual's nose and throat.

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At 11 a.m. on March 12, however, the wait was estimated at three hours, and staffers were forced to cut off the line early, when it became clear that many of the people hoping for tests could not be served.

In a release issued at 9:35 p.m. on March 12, the CDPHE reported that more than 650 people had been tested at the lab in its first two days — which means that nearly 500 samples were collected yesterday. But "due to the overwhelming response," the lab "will be operating with limited capacity" today. It's scheduled to be open only from noon to 2 p.m. to "ensure the safety of our lab and health-care workers and minimize unnecessary wait times."

On top of that, "Governor Polis has deployed the Colorado National Guard to help manage logistics, traffic and other assistance with capacity for the site."

Although Guard members had previously been helping out at the lab, their presence will be key today, given officials' determination that the drive-up queue can only accommodate 100 to 150 cars. The drivers of any vehicles beyond that number will be "encouraged to seek testing from a private provider," according to the release.

In addition, the release notes, the CDPHE is urging "anyone who is symptomatic or who believes they may have been exposed to COVID-19 to call or email your physician first for guidance, obtain a doctor’s order for testing, and request information about private providers where you can get tested. Always call first before reporting to a health care facility for testing. Any medical provider with a relationship with Labcorp or Quest can send out the test, but be sure to contact your provider ahead of time, because many providers have centralized sites for collection due to safety precautions."

The department is hoping to directly contact people about results within 72 hours, "depending on test volume."

For more information, visit the CDPHE's coronavirus page.

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