KEYSTONE — Anyone in Summit County can now get a test for the novel coronavirus, regardless of their situation.
Currently, Summit County has the capacity to administer around 1,000 tests per day through its three testing sites, Public Health Director Amy Wineland said at a virtual town hall event on Nov. 18. With this capacity, testing is now available to the entire community, regardless of whether they are insured or symptomatic.
The dramatic increase of testing capacity came as a result of a rising test positivity rate — the percentage of positive tests out of all tests — in Summit County. On Nov. 13, the county was reporting a positivity rate of 16.3%. Since then, the rate has dropped to 7.8% as of Saturday, Nov. 28, according to the state’s COVID-19 dial dashboard.
“We’re doing a better job capturing those who have the virus due to the increased testing we’re doing in the community,” Wineland said at a Board of Health meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 24.
While the testing rate has dropped, the county’s two-week incidence rate remains high. As of Saturday, the state was reporting 1,197 new cases per 100,000 people in Summit County, which is well within the level red threshold.
When cases began to rise in mid-September the county was only able to test about 100 people a day through its Centura Health site. At that time, public health officials were urging only people who were symptomatic or had been exposed to the virus to get tested.
Since then the county has partnered with Vail Health and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to open two more testing clinics in Frisco and Silverthorne. It has also worked with Centura Health to expand testing at its daily testing clinic. In all, there are three COVID-19 testing clinics that are open to the community.
In Frisco, Centura Health operates a daily clinic at the Vista Professional Building. The clinic has ramped up its testing capacity and is now testing up to 200 people a day, St. Anthony Summit Medical Center spokesperson Brent Boyer said.
Throughout all of its clinics, Centura has expanded its criteria for testing, said Dr. Stephen Cobb, the chief medical officer for Centura in Denver.
“In the beginning we were only testing patients who met criteria to be hospitalized and very few other populations,” he said. “Now, we’re testing pretty liberally, anywhere from people wanting to travel for Thanksgiving to people being admitted to the ICU and everything in between.”
The county also partnered with Vail Health, Breckenridge Grand Vacations and Arapahoe Basin Ski Area to open a new testing site at the Old Community Center, which is located at 110 Third Ave. in Frisco. This is the second time the county has brought in Vail Health to help provide testing in the community.
In April, Vail Health started providing testing at its Howard Head Sports Medicine clinic. The clinic closed in May, when demand for tests dropped.
Shaneis Kehoe, who oversees testing at the Vail Health clinic, said Summit County officials approached the health system to improve testing capacity in the county.
“(Summit County residents are) our neighbors, we all have the same priorities: staying healthy, being outside, keeping our ski season afloat,” Kehoe said. “It was a pretty easy thing to jump into and help out with them again.”
Kehoe said the clinic has the ability to test 200 patients a day. On average, the clinic is seeing anywhere from 30-60 patients right now.
Both Kehoe and Cobb said the two testing sites aren’t experiencing the limitations they saw at the beginning of the pandemic. Kehoe said patients of the Vail Health site can expect a result within 48 hours.
“We have the capability to test anyone, whether that’s asymptomatic or symptomatic, we’ll test whoever requests one, they don’t need an order from a physician,” Kehoe said.
In addition to increased capacity at the Centura site and a new Vail Health site, the county partnered with the state health department to open a drive-thru testing site in the overflow parking lot next to the Silverthorne Recreation Center.
The state site, which is run by MAKO Medical, is able to administer around 600 tests per day, said Wineland at a community town hall on Nov. 6. The site is currently averaging around 200-300 tests per day. While it was originally scheduled to only be open for two weeks, the site is now set to be in Silverthorne through Dec. 30.
Unlike the Centura and Vail Health sites, the Silverthorne testing site does not require an appointment. However, people can ensure a faster experience by filling out a registration form in advance.
Although testing is widely available in Summit County, that doesn’t mean people shouldn’t be following COVID-19 guidelines and restrictions, Cobb said.
“We need people to make the right choices during this holiday season, not congregate outside of our households and do the things that we know that will stop the spread of the virus,” he said.