DENVER (CBS4) – Imagine if you will, huge coronavirus testing sites and large scale blood draws with dozens of people and medical professionals.

“We’ve set a really ambitious goal of getting thousands of tests done per day,” said Scott Bookman, Colorado’s incident response commander for COVID-19 response.

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“This really needs to be a broad-based strategy protecting done in partnership at all levels,” he told CBS4.

The need for broad based testing for antibodies to the coronavirus is the start of a path out of our isolation. It’s knowledge needed to know the danger, and the governor says they’ve been thinking about it for a while.

“Just because I don’t talk about it every day does not mean it’s not the singular focus of an entire team of experts that we brought in,” Bookman said.

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Just look at tiny San Miguel County around Telluride. Last month, it attempted to become the first county in the country to test virtually all of its residents.

“Safely, efficiently and on the timeline that we wanted to do it in,” was the mission, said county spokesperson Susan Lilly. But that took a lot of figuring.

“They had to figure out the best location, get the right people and get the right supplies,” said Lilly.

That turned out to be schools. The county sought out volunteers and brought in medical workers and EMTs, ensuring all got certified in blood draws. They set up the schools with proper distancing and even considered the air flow. Dozens of people were there during the testing.

“It was complicated and it was an extraordinary feat.”

They told at-risk people to stay at home. There was no need to draw out people sheltering away from others, to a place where they might be exposed. They told parents not to bring in children 8 and under.

“We were exceedingly happy with how it all worked out,” said Lilly.

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San Miguel County ended up testing about 5,500 of its 8,000 residents. That was Round 1. A second round was to be done about two weeks later, but five weeks out, it hasn’t happened yet. There have been reports of difficulties by the company doing the testing, which is in the eastern United States, of getting its work completed, but Lilly said the suspension of the second round is more complicated than that.

8,000 residents is only a tiny sliver of Colorado’s population of nearly 5.8 million.

“It’s going to be done in partnership with the state and our local public health agencies, who will then also be partnering with health care providers, community health care centers, hospitals in their communities,” said Bookman.

The state will take the lead, but testing on that scale cannot get done without a vast effort and multiple sites. The state does have tests that came in this week; 150,000 of them that they ordered from Korea. They will first test health care workers at nursing homes. But that’s a few at a time. A bigger, broader effort will require far more tests and huge logistics. And even then, it’s only information.

“It doesn’t solve this. We can’t just test and trace our way out of this in any model,” said Gov. Jared Polis.

If you have a Good Question for CBS4’s Alan Gionet, you can email it to goodquestion@cbsdenver.com or post them to CBS4’s social media sites with the hashtag #4GoodQuestion. He will try to report on as many as he can.

Alan Gionet

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