By Karen Morfitt

DENVER (CBS4) – State health officials say nearly half of Colorado’s coronavirus related deaths are associated with long-term care facilities. They are now turning their focus to slowing the spread of COVID-19 in those settings with enhanced testing.

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The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, with the help of the Colorado National Guard, is doing remote testing at three facilities in El Paso County, Adams County and in Broomfield.

On Tuesday, they set up a drive-up testing site in the parking lot of Elm Haven Care facility in Thornton.

“We have about 70 or so servicemen, both Army and Air National Guard, going into these long-term care facilities and providing testing for both staff and for the residents,” Lt. Col Matthew Morton said.

Morton is the Deputy Director for military support for the Colorado National Guard. He says they will perform roughly 300 tests at each facility and the unit assigned to the mission knows how to handle the environment.

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“All of them are trained from the very basic donning and doffing the personal protective equipment to handling a myriad of chemical agents or different biological environments. This is no different. This isn’t a weaponized environment, but something that is still deadly,” he said.

The state is now pouring resources into long-term care facilities that have been a hotspot for COVID-19 cases across the state. They are targeting large facilities that have yet to see an outbreak in an effort to slow the spread.

(credit: CBS)

“Ultimately this really helps give the state a picture of where there are folks who are infected,” Morton said.

And while he says the call to help fight this pandemic has been a mission unlike any other, the response is the same.

“When something real world does happen, we are trained for it. We are prepared for it.”

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Karen Morfitt