DENVER – Colorado will shutter its last remaining COVID-19 community testing sites later this month as the state continues to transition treatment for the novel coronavirus to more traditional health care settings.
Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) officials said Wednesday the state’s 20 remaining COVID-19 community testing sites will close on Jan. 15 as Coloradans are now overwhelming relying on rapid at-home COVID-19 testing kits to test for the virus.
In a news release Wednesday, CDPHE officials said testing at community sites has dropped consistently over the last several months, fluctuating between 3-6% of overall capacity since November 2022.
Colorado’s first community testing site opened as a drive-up testing facility on March 11, 2020 – six days after Gov. Polis announced the virus was spreading across the state.
“Since then, we have provided millions of tests to Coloradans at more than 150 community testing sites across Colorado,” said COVID-19 Incident Commander Scott Bookman. “With this transition, the State is focusing efforts on the testing distribution methods Coloradans currently use most and providing testing resources to those who need them most."
The state continues to provide free at-home COVID-19 tests at more than 200 distribution centers and Coloradans can also order these testing kits from the federal government through the Biden administration’s free COVID-19 testing home delivery program. Insurance companies and health plans are also required to cover eight free over-the-counter at-home tests per covered person per month.
State health officials said other resources are available for people without insurance who need to get tested for COVID-19, such as the Increasing Community Access to Testing (ICATT) program. Interested persons can contact a specific location for more information.
“CDPHE continues to closely monitor testing needs, disease transmission, and hospital capacity to be able to respond appropriately and programs supporting testing in higher risk settings will continue,” a CDPHE spokesperson said, adding the state is also offering PCR and rapid testing to long term and residential care facilities.
The state’s free school testing program will also continue through at least the end of the 2022-2023 school year, CDPHE officials said.
“CDPHE is working closely with local public health agencies to support them if they determine they need to establish ongoing community testing sites in their area. This includes helping them use federal funds they already have as well as connecting them directly with federal resources and programs that are available to them,” officials said in the release.
Wednesday’s announcement from the CDPHE comes more than 9 months after the state dismantled its COVID-19 community vaccination sites, and as the U.S. reports an increase in hospitalizations for COVID-19 at the same time as a new sublineage of the omicron variant, XBB.1.5, is rapidly gaining ground, accounting for more than 40% of all cases as Dec. 31, according to estimates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The CDPHE urges people who have cold-like symptoms to get tested for COVID-19 and contact their health care provider if they test positive for the virus to see if they're eligible to receive antiviral treatment.
Health experts have gone even further and are urging the public to continue taking other precautions to limit their risk of becoming infected with SARS-CoV-2, such as wearing high-quality masks in areas of substantial or high transmission, avoiding large indoor gatherings if possible, ventilating indoor settings if gathering in packed spaces, practicing proper hand hygiene, and following CDC quarantine guidance if you've been exposed or test positive for the virus.