By Shawn Chitnis

DENVER (CBS4) – The same week the Centers for Disease Control announced new guidance for fully vaccinated people to wear masks in public indoor settings, the agency and local health officials are calling for an increase in testing as well. The added recommendation is based on people with the COVID-19 vaccine spreading the Delta variant of the virus to others.

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“I think that we’re keeping populations that don’t have the capacity to get vaccinated yet, safe,” Cheryl Jacobs said at the All-City Stadium location of COVID Check Colorado while her daughter got a required test before summer camp. “Things are not over, we’re still in a tentative place, we need to be cautious.”

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The last two weeks at that location have seen an increase in visits as the Delta variant requires more people to get checked for COVID-19. Staff say they can still handle testing 50 to 100 people each hour at that location but they’re averaging about 10 an hour for now.

“The vaccine does protect you against severe symptoms, hospitalization, death but you can still catch it, you can still spread it, and the Delta variant is just that much more contagious,” said Suzane Ferdows, the western region manager for COVID Check Colorado.

The CDC announced on Monday that new evidence from the Delta variant pushed the agency to recommend fully vaccinated people who have a known exposure to someone who could have COVID-19 to be tested three to five days after that exposure. They also should wear a mask for 14 days when indoors or until they receive a negative test result.

(credit: CBS)

“That’s always been challenging, we’ve never thought we were capturing everything,” said Dr. John Douglas, the executive director of Tri-County Health Department. “Part of the reason why I emphasize get tested if you’re sick or even get tested if you’ve had a close exposure is exactly that, cause we probably are under testing right now.”

Douglas acknowledged that since last year, there has been a concern among health experts that testing is not capturing enough of the total virus out in the community. He hopes more people will get tested with the new CDC guidance so they can get a better understanding of the spread across Colorado.

“Hard to know if the part of the iceberg we detect is 10% or 20% but it’s certainly not 100%,” he said Wednesday.

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Both the governor’s office and the Colorado Department of Public Health Environment issued statements on Thursday about the new CDC recommendations. Their responses explained that state leaders want to meet with the agency to understand the science behind the change in guidance.

“Science shows that vaccines are safe and still very effective against preventing infections, and even more importantly at preventing the worst outcomes for those who do get infected, even infection from the delta variant,” the statement read. “Despite all this progress, this is a novel virus and we are still learning new information every day about its ability to change.”

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CDPHE pointed out that 70% of adults in Colorado have the vaccine but local, state, and federal agencies continue to push more people to get their dose.

“If you’ve been putting it off, just get it done. Masks help but they’re not nearly as effective as the vaccine,” Gov. Polis said on Tuesday.

Testing is available for free from COVID Check Colorado, appointments are not necessary but they ask you to pre-register before arriving at covidcheckcolorado.org.

Additional Resources

The following information is provided by the State of Colorado:

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There are more than 80 free community testing sites across the state. They have the capacity to conduct over 32,000 tests per day. Testing does not require photo ID. If you have symptoms or have been exposed to COVID-19, you may also obtain a free COVID-19 test at Walgreens and other select pharmacies in Colorado. View the list of free pharmacy testing sites to find a site near you. Photo ID will be required to obtain a COVID-19 test through this program. Proof of insurance may be requested during registration, but is not required. Visit the US Health and Human Services Covid-19 testing website for more information. More testing guidance is here.

Shawn Chitnis