LAKEWOOD, Colo. (CBS4) – They line up early at JeffCo Stadium. Sometimes 5 a.m. “The demand continues to increase. We’re working around the clock to increase capacity as rapidly as we can. But the demand is certainly outpacing the supply at this moment,” said Ben Wiederholt, CEO of Stride Community Health, that does the testing at the stadium site and three others.
“I would caution the public at large not to compare it to a fast food drive-thru,” he added.
Testing is at an all-time high in the state. About 40,000 people were tested Tuesday in the latest numbers out from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Almost 1.4 million tests have been done since mid-March. At the stadium, Stride cuts off testing at midday each day the site is open to keep from being overwhelmed. Wiederholt says it’s not a lack of testing kits, but issues with staffing at lab work that makes them put a lid on the number of tests they do, that they wish could be higher.
“It would be a day or two which could, number one, compromise the specimen and number two, the person isn’t getting the critical information that they need in a timely way.”
“Overall Colorado is not in short supply of testing,” said Michele Lueck, President and CEO of the nonprofit Colorado Health Institute.
CDC recommendations call for about 1,000 tests a day in a city the size of Denver and 8,000 across the state. With numbers of tests in the tens of thousands, Colorado is well over minimum recommendations, but in the current wave of COVID cases, it still seems like not enough.
“There are other parts of the health system that have to continue to work,” noted Lueck.
The flu is ramping up and labs will be busy with testing for that and other health issues do not stop in a pandemic, things like cancer and heart disease that also require medical resources.
“In an ideal world the issues of supply and demand wouldn’t come in to play,” said Lueck in a discussion about a goal of testing not only people who may be ill, but the population as a whole.
That will lead to data that helps beat the pandemic. But there are only a few things the current testing centers can do.
“You can kind of pick two out of three,” said Wiederholt. “If you want it fast, it you want it affordable and you want it high quality, it’s really hard to do all three of those. You can do pretty well if you can do two out of those three.”
Stride is seeking more workers to increase its workforce by 50 percent. The CDPHE is adding testing kiosks in places like the University of Northern Colorado campus and Jefferson County will open a testing center next week at the Fairgrounds. All of it, necessitated by a steep rise in cases that shows no sigs of levelling off.
“Transmission that’s running really rampant is a concern and the alarm bells should be ringing for all of us,” said Lueck.