Denver officers, firefighters will be among first in US to get rapid COVID-19 tests

Coronavirus

DENVER (KDVR) — Denver police officers, deputies and firefighters will be among the first people in the country to use rapid COVID-19 tests that can provide results in 2-10 minutes.

Denver’s Department of Public Safety bought 2,750 tests from AYTU BioScience in Englewood, which received its first shipment of 100,000 tests from China on Tuesday.

“We’re all asking the public to adhere to the governor and the mayor’s stay-at-home order but it’s the firefighters, the police officers and the paramedics who are going to still be out on the streets. With this testing, it really helps us quite a bit in keeping our workforce safe,” said Denver Police Department Chief Paul Pazen.

 FOX31 first told viewers about AYTU BioScience about three weeks ago. It’s the North American distributor of the rapid tests manufactured in China that can detect COVID-19 antibodies from a simple drop of blood using a finger stick.

“To assess the immunity of first responders is very important to see if you might be able to get back into the field, who perhaps has been carrying the virus, who may now have built up an immunity,” said Josh Disbrow, the CEO of AYTU BioScience.

The tests are not FDA approved yet but the federal government is allowing the rapid tests to be used anyway as long as patients are told they may need to get a second, like a nasal swab, if they test positive.

Still, they are considered an excellent screening tool, especially for first responders who may not be symptomatic but are contagious.

“They’re the ones that are getting in contact with people that need help and they’re getting exposed more and more. So the more solace we can give them and their families, the better,” said Denver Fire Department Chief Todd Bower.

The Department of Safety plans to start testing employees Monday based on who is showing symptoms. 

“Often I think the best route to the truth is through advanced science,” said Gregory LaBerge, the director of the Forensic and Evidence division at DPD.

 “You can have the virus and maybe not be symptomatic but you could show an immune response, so we want to detect those people,” said Laberge.

AYTU BioScience is overnighting its first shipment of tests so that doctors and hospitals can begin using the tests on Friday.

It expects another 500,000 tests to arrive from China next week and another 500,000 the following week.

Medical providers and emergency responders who want to order tests can visit AYTU’s website.

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