WHEAT RIDGE — Gov. Jared Polis on Monday said that Colorado now has the ability to test anyone in the state who has coronavirus symptoms — for free — and encouraged people to seek out screening.
“You really should get tested if you have fever, dry cough, shortness of breath,” Polis said at a briefing with reporters outside a Wheat Ridge health care center where testing is being offered. “… We do want you to get tested.”
Polis said there are 32 free community testing sites across Colorado. People can find a site closest to them at the state’s public health website.
The governor hopes Colorado can test at least 8,500 people a day by the end of May as the state begins loosening restrictions on people’s movement in response to COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus. The request for people to get tested is a major shift in the state’s response to the crisis.
Just a few weeks ago testing was limited to health care workers, first responders and people so ill that they needed admission to a hospital. Now, Polis says testing is needed so that Colorado has data to make decisions about how to move forward.
“Cost is not a barrier,” Polis said. “There is no copay. There is no out of pocket.”
People who have symptoms but don’t want to be tested should self-isolate for five days after their symptoms subside, Polis said.
Polis was tested for the illness during the news conference on Monday. A health care worker dressed in personal protective gear inserted a long swab up his nose and collected a sample.
The test was over in seconds. Polis, whose eyes appeared to water after the test, said he felt a “little tickle.”
“I want the people of Colorado to see how easy this is,” he said. “… You remember originally, when there wasn’t enough testing, the message that we sent is if you’re sick you self-isolate. Whether it’s COVID or not, you stay at home. That can still be your choice, but we are now encouraging you to get tested.”
Restaurant reopening guidance will be released by Tuesday
Polis said by Tuesday his administration will release draft guidance for restaurants on how they may reopen for in-person dining.
“I’m also encouraging all the cities and counties that restaurants operate in to look at their options for outdoor dining, for opening up sidewalks and streets,” Polis said. “That’s really the only way, with the spacing, we’re going to have a thriving restaurant environment for the coming months.”
Restaurants, he said, can seat patrons indoors at just 25% of capacity because of the contagiousness of the virus.
The governor said the state is going to “waive every rule and regulation we can, including serving beer and wine on streets.”
A decision on whether to allow restaurants statewide to reopen for in-person dining is expected to come in a week on Memorial Day. In Mesa County, in-person dining has already resumed because officials there requested and were granted a variance to the state’s safer-at-home order.
Polis said his administration will solicit feedback on the statewide guidelines this week with the hope of finalizing them by Friday.