By Tori Mason

DENVER (CBS4) — Denver health officials will close the COVID-19 testing site at the Pepsi Center in October. The number of drive-thru lanes was reduced from eight to four last week. Officials said the move is part of a transition from large-scale testing centers to an expansion of community-based testing sites.

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“You can imagine how difficult it might be for some of our underserved communities to make it to the Pepsi Center,” said Bob McDonald, Executive Director of Denver’s Department of Public Health & Environment (DDPHE).

Martin Davidson, a CNA who lives 20 minutes from downtown Denver, says drive-thru testing isn’t an option. While the Pepsi Center offered testing for pedestrians, Davidson does not have a car to get him to the weekly testing he needs for his job.

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“It shouldn’t be a barrier, not having a car. When I go to places or I look them up, and I see tents, the first thing I think is ‘Oh you have to have a car’ and that’s what I don’t have. A car,” said Davidson.

Davidson said he’s grateful for the kind stranger he met on a Denver COVID-19 Facebook group who offered to drive him through the testing at Water World.

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“I was just blessed that I didn’t have to deal with walking up and getting turned away. I got it done, finally,” said Davidson.

According to DDPHE, the Pepsi Center site provided broad, regional testing needed early in the city’s early response. Now the city can focus its testing resources where they are most effective, at a community level in highly impacted and underserved neighborhoods.

Initial community-based testing sites include central Denver (Paco Sanchez Park), Green Valley Ranch, GES neighborhoods and Southwest Denver.

DDPHE says its working create these sites quickly to minimize the disruption of the Pepsi Center no longer being available. Officials recommend people register online before arriving for a test. Officials said those who are able should see their primary care doctor for future testing. Community testing locations and times are available at denvergov.org/covid19testing.

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Once those sites are active, people will be able to drive up to the location for testing. DDPHE says only certain locations will offered walk up testing, and that information will be released soon.

DDPHE will also have mobile testing available for those who are homebound.

If DDPHE finds community testing isn’t providing the needed data to drive solid decision making around COVID-19 and minimal effective restrictions, they will look at all options, including mass testing facilities.

Tori Mason

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