DENVER (CBS4) – The City of Denver’s most popular community-based COVID-19 testing site has nearby residents worried about their own health. According to the city, the positivity rate at all its community sites is currently about 20%. During the last two weeks of mass testing at Ball Arena, the positivity rate was 4%.
Health officials say stay at home to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but some neighbors near Paco Sanchez Park feel they’re safer somewhere else.
“This is not a community site. This is half of the metro area bringing the disease to our neighborhood. All these people think they might be contagious. I feel like the disease is brought to me,” said Rachel Libowitz, a nearby neighbor.
Libowitz can see hundreds of cars idle from her window every day. She also worries these potentially COVID-19 positive visitors, from all over the city, visit nearby stores after their test. About 700 people drive up 12th Avenue every day to take advantage of free testing at Paco Sanchez Park, but gridlock isn’t the problem for Libowitz.
“It’s not about the traffic. It’s not about the testing site. There needs to be more community testing sites. It’s about the logistics of where it is. You’re next to a highly trafficked bike and walking path. People have their windows down, no masks,” said Libowitz.
Many residents near the site at Paco Sanchez Park would prefer the city reopen its mass testing location, instead of sending thousands of people to their neighborhood every week.
Neighbors have sent complaints to the City of Denver.
“I understand people are concerned about being exposed to people potentially positive with COVID. But we take every measure to assure the safety of residents in neighborhood,” said Tony Diaz, Testing Branch Director with the City of Denver.
Diaz says the city works with Denver Health to determine where community testing sites will go. They use several metrics to identify underserved communities with high case rates. Once the area is targeted, the city looks for a location that’s easy to find with enough access to roadways that still allow neighbors to get around.
“We’ve taped off areas where we’re testing to prevent people from walking by. The playground, we try to keep the kids away from the site by putting up the netting. So, while it’s by the park, it’s several feet away. More than the 6 feet we recommend,” said Diaz.
One neighbor contacted the city after seeing bio-waste containers sitting open at the park, near drinking fountains. The city told CBS4 the drinking fountains are disabled and site was either setting up or closing down, as those materials are never left out.
“In the photo, I didn’t see any cars in the parking lot. I assume it was either the beginning or the end of day when we were setting up or tearing down,” said Diaz. “We don’t leave any of that out. At the end of the day we collect all that, secure it inside a facility, and the biohazard waste is collected twice a week from a certified vendor.”
Libowitz, who is immunocompromised, says she supports community testing sites but she wants the city to have more. Until the site next to her home becomes less populated, she will continue to stay at another location for her own safety.
“There was no survey. There was no warning. I don’t know if you could actually find a worse location to set something like this up,” said Libowitz. “The whole thing, it just doesn’t feel safe.”
The city says this was their first testing site and they’re learning. The testing site opening in Ruby Hill next week will not be in such a residential area. Residents with safety concerns are encouraged to call the Denver Police non-emergency number: 720-913-2000.