State now has ability to test for COVID-19

Quick turnaround expected from facility set up by CDPHE

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The State Laboratory at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment can now test for COVID-19 — the technical name for novel coronavirus. Testing had previously been done only by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to a news release.

The test will be used for people who meet the criteria for COVID-19 testing only; it is not available to the general public. 

With staffing and equipment resources, the state lab has the capacity to test up to 160 samples per day, assuming test kits from the CDC are continuously available. Turnaround time for results is expected to be within 24 hours of specimen receipt at the state laboratory. 

“Being able to confirm or rule out cases of COVID-19 at the state level allows us to be more nimble in responding to and controlling this disease if it occurs in Colorado,” State Laboratory Director Scott Bookman said in the news release. “The time frame for testing cases should be quicker than ever.”

In Colorado, the public health officials may decide that a patient merits testing if:

• He or she has a fever or signs/symptoms of lower respiratory illness, such as cough or shortness of breath, and has been in close contact with someone confirmed with COVID-19 within 14 days of when symptoms started.

• He or she has a fever and signs/symptoms of lower respiratory illness (and other diagnoses such as influenza have been ruled out), and the patient recently traveled to parts of the world where infection rates are high or community spread is occurring, within 14 days of when symptoms started.

• He or she has a fever with severe lower respiratory illness that requires hospitalization and other diagnoses such as influenza have been ruled out.

This guidance varies slightly from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As the state lab has capacity, Colorado will continue to consider testing for individuals who are not hospitalized to identify patients who have traveled to affected areas and who have less severe disease.

If a medical provider thinks a patient may have COVID-19, the provider will contact the state or a local public health department for instructions on testing. If a patient needs to be tested, the medical provider will collect a specimen from the patient’s nose and throat and send the samples to the state lab. Public health agencies will make the final decision about testing for COVID-19 virus. 

The collaboration between public health, health care providers, and other agencies to prepare for the disease in Colorado is ongoing. The state will continue to investigate and test possible cases and provide timely updates about the situation.

COVID-19

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