Third mass testing set for next week


Ouray County public health officials are preparing to conduct a third COVID-19 mass testing event, and this time they say they’ll be better prepared for what’s expected to be another heavy turnout.

The drive-through testing event will run from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 16, at the Ouray County 4-H Events Center in Ridgway. Testing is free, and appointments and doctor orders are not needed.

“I’m expecting a good turnout,” Ouray County Public Health Director Tanner Kingery said. “Here at Public Health we’re testing zo to 3o people a day, so I think the demand is still there.”

Health officials were over whelmed at the most recent community-wide testing on Nov. u. They ran out of the county’s supply of oral swab tests, received more of them from Montrose County, ran out of those, switched to Ouray County’s supply of nasal swab tests and ran out of those roughly two hours before testing was originally scheduled to end. The county conducted a total of go6 tests that day.

This time, the county will have 1,500 tests on hand. Kingery said he’s confident the county won’t run of tests this time, if for no other reason than it doesn’t have the capability of testing more people than that over the course of to hours.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Rapid Response Team, which is assisting with the Dec. 16 testing, has committed to doubling its staffing from nine to IS, Kingery said. The county will also have two laptop computers and two bar code scanners to process patient data, rather than just one of each.

With the additional tests, staffing and equipment, “hope-fully the lines won’t be as long to wait in and the results will come back a little cleaner,” he said.

County health officials prefer the oral swabs because the tests are sent to a lab in California, which typically returns results in two days. By comparison, nasal swabs go to Colorado’s state lab, which doesn’t produce results for a week or longer.

Kingery said health officials will meet with Ouray County Sheriff’s Office representatives today to do a walk-through of the events center space. The sheriff’s office will provide traffic control for the event.

He said officials plan to route those being tested through the 4-H barn in an effort to try to keep people warm and provide shelter from the elements.

The second mass testing event comes as Ouray County cases have begun to slowly climb again after a brief lull. No cases were reported from Nov. 26-29. Single cases were reported each day Nov. 3o, Dec. 2 and Dec. 3. Since Dec. 4, however, the county has reported seven confirmed infections and four probable cases. The newest cases, reported Tuesday and Wednesday, involve a female under the age ofio,amaleinhis6osanda woman in her 4os.

That increases the total in Ouray County since the start of the pandemic to 130 —114 positives and 16 probables. The county’s two-week case count is 16. The county is ata 7.5 per cent positivity rate during that time. Health officials have said their goal is to remain below 5 percent.

Ouray County is currently at Level Orange on the state’s color-coded COVID-19 dial, which is considered high risk and reduces indoor capacity in most instances to 25 percent. Elected officials who have been pushing the public to continue to wear masks, socially distance and wash their hands while acknowledging growing fatigue with the virus say they are focused on moving the county back to Level Yellow, which would allow for greater capacity in businesses and fewer overall restrictions.

Kingery said he doesn’t yet know when Ouray County will receive its first vaccine shipment. It’s expected to be later than other counties because Ouray County doesn’t have the sorts of high-risk facilities that garner higher priority, such as colleges and nursing homes.

If you go

WHAT: COVID-19 testing

WHEN: Dec. 16, 7 a.m.-5 p.m.

WHERE: 4-H Center

MORE DETAILS: Tests are provided free of charge. This is an oral swab test, so do not eat, smoke or drink 20 minutes before your test. Preregistration isn’t required but is encouraged. Register at