By Brian Maass

DENVER (CBS4) – Deep into the COVID-19 pandemic and Colorado doctors and hospitals say they still only have enough supplies to test a fraction of those for coronavirus who should be tested.

“If we had the ability to test everyone we wanted, especially early on during this pandemic, we could have done a better job, in my opinion, of containing the spread of the disease,” said Dr. Stephen Cobb, a physician with Centura Health.

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The hospital chain said it still only has enough supplies to test suspected COVID-19 patients who are already in the hospital, along with health care workers exhibiting symptoms and some first responders. Outpatients are not being tested.

“Having the infinite ability to test would have given us a lot more data to isolate people and contain the spread of the disease,” said Cobb.

It was a familiar refrain this week as hospitals and doctors in Colorado said they simply could not test everyone who should be tested, including people who show up at hospitals with clear coronavirus symptoms, but are not admitted so are sent home without being tested.

Dr. Jane Jenab, an emergency department physician based in Denver, told CBS4, “We’ve been begging for tests. We’ve been begging for PPE, and we haven’t gotten it.”

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She said an estimated 25% of people may carry the virus, but not have any symptoms so they may be unwittingly spreading the virus.

“We have to know whether people have the virus so that we know how widespread it is, and so we can isolate those people so they are not infecting others.” She said widespread testing was critical “so that we know where this thing is and where it’s going and when people are safe to go back out in public.”

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Stephanie Sullivan, a spokesperson for HealthOne hospitals told CBS4 tests are currently only going to inpatients and health care workers.

”No ED (emergency department) or outpatient testing,” said Sullivan.

Hospitals said there has been a shortage of testing supplies like swabs and chemicals, along with the machinery needed to conduct the testing.

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Last month, President Donald Trump declared, “Anybody that needs a test, gets a test, they’re there… and they’re beautiful.” The president repeated the statement several times, “They’re all set. They have them out there.”

But Dr. Whitney Kennedy, who runs a clinic in northwest Denver said that was “not even close.” She said her clinic has probably run about 10 tests total and has to send them to a private lab in Pennsylvania which takes seven to 14 days to get results which she said was not very helpful.

“Adequate testing is far from being true,” she said. Kennedy said she sent a patient with pneumonia to an emergency room and the patient was not tested.

Jenab said the scarcity of testing resources causes data deficits and other collateral impacts: “The worst thing is to be the vector, the person who is contagious and potentially infect someone, and they die from it. I can’t even imagine the guilt I would have.”

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Brian Maass