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From left: Boulder Community Health Mobile Testing Technician Taittumn Barrett fills out paper work as Manager of Ambulatory Operations Andilyn Brockert watches a patient swab their nose during a COVID-19 test at Journey Church in Longmont on Wednesday. Boulder County Public Health, Boulder Community Health and Biodesix are partnering to provide COVID-19 testing for underserved communities. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)
From left: Boulder Community Health Mobile Testing Technician Taittumn Barrett fills out paper work as Manager of Ambulatory Operations Andilyn Brockert watches a patient swab their nose during a COVID-19 test at Journey Church in Longmont on Wednesday. Boulder County Public Health, Boulder Community Health and Biodesix are partnering to provide COVID-19 testing for underserved communities. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)
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A joint effort by state and Boulder County health organizations will expand free coronavirus testing to people who have the least access to tests and are most vulnerable to the disease.

Boulder County Public Health, Boulder Community Health, diagnostic testing developer Biodesix and the Colorado Department of Health and Environment are partnering to provide additional testing across Boulder County through the end of the year, if not longer.

Boulder Community Health Mobile Testing Technicians Patrick Hurley and Jake Woodruff package a sample after a COVID-19 test for a person experiencing homelessness at Journey Church in Longmont on Wednesday. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)

The partnership will enable additional community testing as well as testing for specific groups, including people experiencing homelessness, Latinx people, those living in Peak-to-Peak communities and people 65 years old and older.

“Like much of health care, this disproportionately impacts the more vulnerable groups in our population, and one of the biggest barriers to prevention and receiving care is access,” said Dr. Robert Vissers, president and CEO of Boulder Community Health. “This solves the access problem.”

Using a varied testing strategy — offering free tests to certain groups as well as broader communities — recognizes the different needs of Boulder County residents, said Chris Campbell, emergency manager for Boulder County Public Health.

On Wednesday night, Boulder Community Health staff offered free COVID-19 tests outside of a Homeless Outreach Providing Encouragement, or HOPE, shelter in Longmont.

David Gazotti received one of the first free tests, not because he was particularly worried — he hasn’t gotten a test before — but because shelter staff “strongly suggested it.”

“I didn’t really do it for me. I did it to do my social duty and to make sure I’m safe for everybody around me,” he said.

The most frustrating part of the pandemic, Gazotti said, is basic services that are reduced or gone altogether. Wal-Mart is no longer open 24 hours a day, and Gazotti’s normal bus route was cut — now, his only option is to ride his bike to work.

Marius Nunn also took a coronavirus test out of a sense of responsibility.

“If you only care about yourself and you don’t care about your community, that’s selfish,” he said.

Offering free tests at congregate living shelters such as HOPE is a priority, Campbell said, because people living in group housing situations are particularly vulnerable to coronavirus.

“We want to provide regular access to testing for those community members so they can be safe,” Campbell said.

The goal is to administer an additional 200 tests a day across the county, Campbell said.

The partnership works like this: Boulder Community Health providers collect the diagnostic tests, and Biodesix processes them. Boulder County is covering the $200,000 cost through federal CARES Act funding and is coordinating the testing events. There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes coordination to boot, Campbell said, particularly with figuring out where to test and how best to connect with different communities.

Gebhardt Volkswagen in Boulder also donated a 2020 Volkswagen Tiguan to be used as a mobile health unit.

There will be free weekly testing sites in Nederland and Lyons starting this week, with the potential to expand to other communities along the Peak to Peak Highway.

“We continue to talk with community leaders, and we know there’s a dearth of testing there,” Campbell said.

The Lyons testing site will be open from 1:30 to 3 p.m. every Friday through the end of the year in the parking lot of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 200 2nd Ave.

The Nederland testing site will be open from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. every Thursday through the end of the year at the Nederland Community Center, 750 Colo. 72 N.

Both sites will be closed on holidays and could be closed because of inclement weather. Masks are required. No appointment is needed and people don’t need to have symptoms to be tested. County officials said they encourage people who are 65 years old or older and front line workers to participate.

Officials also are looking at expanding the free testing to Longmont, though locations and dates have not been finalized, Campbell said.

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