Group prepares for more COVID testing in the new year, including school staff and students

Coronavirus
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DENVER (KDVR) — One thing most of us did at some point in 2020 was get tested for COVID-19.

With the pandemic following us into the new year and a new strain of the illness popping up in Colorado, we decided to check in with one of the biggest testing operations in the state to see where testing goes from here.

More than 2 million people in Colorado were tested for COVID last year. With a now-stable supply of tests, one organization that played a major role in 2020 is looking to take a step further this year.

Since launching last summer, COVIDCheck Colorado performed more than 300,000 free tests for Coloradans. Now expanded to nearly 20 sites, the group has big plans for the new year.

“When the COVID crisis first hit in March, and we had 500,00 Coloradans out of work and almost a million Colorado students out of school, we knew we need to get the economy open and get those schools, and we know the best way to do that would be regular, reliable access to COVID testing, and so we spent a great deal of time, effort and resources trying to build up the platform to do that,” said Mike Johnston, CEO of Gary Community Investment Company and COVIDCheck Colorado chairman.

“We’ve helped open 25 school districts, 15 colleges across Colorado. We’re excited to partner with school districts now to begin offering testing not just to staff but also to students so that we can reopen elementary schools in person, and middle and high schools in person going into January and February. We think those are all critically important to getting the state up and running again,” Johnston said.

“What we’ve seen the last few days, perhaps because of the holiday season, the number of people tested has gone down,” Gov. Jared Polis said in his press conference on Dec. 30.

However, with the desire to visit loved ones this holiday season, COVIDcheck saw their busiest day yet last week before Christmas. As people head home, preparing to get back to work and school, the group said they are ready to meet the demand, even if the new variant of the illness turns out to be more contagious than previous strains.

“We are prepared to be administering more much higher volumes of tests, and we encourage people, as this new strain emerges and people are more worried, to make sure they come and get tested, and we will have the sites ready for them to do that,” said Johnston.

COVIDCheck is also preparing for more testing as counties move from red to orange, saying they have been testing restaurant teams as a method to prevent outbreaks. They also plan to help distribute vaccinations in the future.

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