More demand for COVID-19 testing in Colorado as delta variant rages

Coronavirus

DENVER (KDVR) — More Coloradans are seeking COVID-19 testing as case numbers rise across the state, fueled by the highly contagious delta variant. 

Data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment shows a gradual increase in testing and positivity rates over the last month. As of Aug. 12, the 7-day average positivity rate was 5.80% — the highest in roughly three months.

Dr. Richard Zane, chief innovation officer with UCHealth said the trend is fueled in part by recent vaccine mandates, requiring people in certain settings to either get a shot or get tested. 

“It’s good that we have testing availability but ideally, we wouldn’t need testing anymore because we’d be done with this and we’d have everybody vaccinated,” said Zane.

Every patient admitted into UCHealth hospitals receives a COVID-19 test, regardless of vaccination status.

“We have a delta variant. And I think we’ve learned that this variant is very different than the native type. It appears there are significant asymptomatic infections in vaccinated people with the delta variant, so it’s still the most judicious thing to do to test every person that is admitted to the hospital,” said Zane.

The state moved from mass testing sites to small community testing sites in fall of 2020. There are currently about 80 free community testing sites across the state, and dozens of other pharmacies also offering free testing. 

According to the CDPHE, the community sites are “well equipped” to provide rapid and accurate testing in the event of a rise in cases. The state has capacity to conduct over 31,000 tests per day and is currently using 7.84% of its capacity.

Zane said there is no shortage of testing supply. The concern at this point is that more dangerous variants will develop if vaccination rates do not increase.

“If we continue to have such a huge population unvaccinated, and the next variant the vaccine doesn’t work for, maybe the next variant we can’t even test for. That is what we’re worried about,” said Zane.

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