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Denver to roll out free drive-up COVID-19 testing site at Pepsi Center

Mayor Michael Hancock, Gov. Jared Polis plan announcement Thursday

The empty parking and closed Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado on Sunday, March 22, 2020.
The empty parking and closed Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado on Sunday, March 22, 2020.

The city of Denver’s first major foray into large-scale free coronavirus testing will be a drive-up site outside the Pepsi Center.

That is where Mayor Michael Hancock and Colorado Gov. Jared Polis will be Thursday afternoon for a news conference announcing the logistics of the new testing setup, according to a news release from the city’s Joint Information Center.

The site’s opening comes as the state and other public and private organizations are attempting to scale up free public testing to better detect cases of COVID-19, the highly contagious respiratory infection caused by the new coronavirus, even among those experiencing minor symptoms. A state website shows about three dozen testing sites in operation around the state, and there are others set up or planned by Kroger Health and Walmart.

Polis had set a goal of testing 10,000 people a day, but the total has reached less than half that most days.

No details about the new Denver site were available Wednesday from the Joint Information Center, a spokesperson said, including whether there will be restrictions on who can get tested.

The governor this week announced the state’s testing capacity had reached the point that anyone with COVID-19 symptoms — including a dry cough, shortness of breath or loss of a sense of smell — can be tested for free, without needing to have insurance or a doctor’s order.

He also encouraged critical workers such as those in health care or the grocery industry to get tested even if they have no symptoms.

Earlier this week, the city announced how it planned to spend the first $20 million in federal stimulus money it has received to address needs in the pandemic. A news release listed support of “widespread community testing” among the city’s objectives in the $5 million public health and safety category.

In March, drive-up testing sites that opened in the Denver area were quickly met by long lines of cars and lengthy waits before being scrapped. The state has supported drive-up testing in smaller communities around the state, though, and the city appears poised to try out the system on a larger scale.

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