John Arnold and Lindsay Pierce Martin

February 04, 2022

Health

In a positive sign, demand for Covid tests eases. But health experts warn against complacency

For those exposed to the virus or experiencing symptoms, testing remains ‘one of the most important things we can do.

John Arnold and Lindsay Pierce Martin

February 04, 2022

As demand eases at one of Colorado’s largest Covid testing sites, health experts urge Coloradans not to become complacent.

The Auraria Campus’ 5th Street Garage, one of the largest testing centers in the state, is averaging 500 to 1,000 tests per day, down from January’s 2,000 to 3,000 tests per day.

It’s another positive sign that the latest wave of the pandemic is easing, but health officials stress that Coloradans should remain vigilant.

“Case rates are certainly making progress, continuing to decrease in the state, and we’re feeling optimistic about the level of decrease that we are seeing, but there’s still lots of Covid out there being transmitted,” said state epidemiologist Rachel Herlihy, M.D.

That’s why testing remains a critical tool in the fight against the virus, said James Dunbar, M.D., a physician at the Health Center at Auraria, which operates the 5th Street Garage site in collaboration with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Enviornment, the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment and COVIDCheck Colorado.

“In terms of public-health measures, having convenient and rapid access to testing is one of the most important things we can do,” Dunbar said.

The Health Center at Auraria, which is operated by Metropolitan State University of Denver, quickly scaled up the 5th Street Garage testing site as the highly contagious Omicron variant took hold late last year.

The site initially opened to serve members of the Auraria community, but MSU Denver designed it to expand quickly, allowing the center to serve the greater Denver community.

“We can go anywhere from 100 tests per day to 3,000 a day, and there’s no other site in the state that can scale up like that in 24 hours,” said Taylor Wettlaufer, program director for the Health Center at Auraria’s Covid-19 testing and vaccination work.

Covid researchers predicted last month that up to 80% of Coloradans may be immune to the Omicron variant by mid-February. And the state’s seven-day average positivity rate recently dropped to its lowest point since Dec. 28. While the decline is reason for optimism, health officials say Coloradans shouldn’t let their guard down, noting that new Covid-19 variants could emerge at any time.

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