State health workers wore masks, protective blue gowns and orange vests as they escorted drivers in a serpentine line of cars to a white tent where workers tested people for the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, on Wednesday in Denver.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment opened the Lowry drive-thru facility at 10 a.m. this morning. At first the flow of cars into the lab was steady — an estimated 40 were in line at any given time. But the flow turned into a trickle by about noon.
People in line for testing must show health workers a doctor’s note confirming that they meet the testing criteria set by state officials. Results will be relayed within 72 hours, but that timeline depends on volume. It’s free and no proof of insurance is required.
Health workers tested more than 160 people between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., Governor Jared Polis said. He said the results will yield “very important data.”
The lab, at 8100 E. Lowry Blvd., is next to a network of public parks, across the street from clusters of homes and businesses, and near a handful of schools. Masked workers and law enforcement officers without protective gear kept most journalists across the street and redirected people who had come to play tennis at a nearby court away from the area.
Other locals walked, biked and skated by on the sidewalks like they would any other day.
“I had no idea,” that the lab existed, said Joey Rumf, a 17-year-old on a skateboard. “I mean, it’s kind of weird that it has to be right next to my house and a high school, but I’m not too worried.”
Colorado health officials say keeping a distance of six feet from people reduces the transmission of the virus. The state says it has reason to suspect limited community spread, meaning public health officials are unable to identify the source of at least one infection.
Ursula Ledger and Luis Flores walked around the parks on what was becoming a warm winter morning. She was off from school because of a possible case of COVID-19. He lives nearby. They were turned off by the presence of police and masked health workers, but not scared.
“We saw the news filming, and then we saw the two ladies standing over there with the protective gear, and we were like, ‘Yeah, let’s just go around the other way,'” said Flores.
Ledger said the very public, very visible testing center is another way the pandemic is “hitting close to home.”
As of 2 p.m., Denver had six presumed positive cases of the novel coronavirus. The Center for Disease Control must approve all cases.