The Montezuma County Health Department will offer free COVID-19 testing for any community member on June 3 at the Montezuma County Fairgrounds from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
No symptoms or appointments are necessary, and testing will be available to anyone, first-come, first-served. Subjects are asked to bring proof of residency such as a driver’s license or utility bill.
Widespread testing is needed to help control the virus’ spread, said Karen Dickson, emergency preparedness coordinator for the county health department.
“Many of the positive COVID-19 cases do not show symptoms and are spreading the virus unknowingly,” she said. “By increasing testing, we can get a more accurate data on infection rates so we can further control community spread.”
Increased testing likely will reveal additional positive cases of COVID-19. If infected people then self-isolate for 14 days, spread of the disease likely will slow.
Along with positive test results, increased contact tracing allows health professionals to inform individuals who have been in contact with an infected person, so they can be tested and self-isolate if necessary.
Symptoms of COVID-19 may include dry cough, shortness of breath, high fever, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, runny nose, headache and fatigue.
Health officials encourage essential workers and anyone who is in contact with a lot of people to take the test. Those groups include employees at grocery, big-box and retail stores, restaurants, transportation companies and gas stations. People who interact with vulnerable populations such as the elderly or immune compromised also should be tested.
The fairgrounds will host drive-thru testing with a nasal swab. Health care workers will take subject’s information and hand out educational materials.
Samples will be sent to labs, and results will be available in five to seven days. Subjects who test positive will be contacted by the county health department and provided guidance and notified about the contact tracing investigation. The Colorado Department of Health and Environment will notify subjects who test negative.
CDPHE has provided 1,000 COVID-19 test kits to Montezuma County.
Staffing is being organized for a mass testing. Southwest Health System is providing volunteers to assist with the testing.
The Ute Mountain Ute tribe recently received 2,000 COVID-19 test kits from CDPHE. The tribe conducted 1,260 tests for tribal members May 19-20 in Towaoc and White Mesa in cooperation with Southwest Health System and Indian Health Service. Results are pending. Testing was voluntary for tribal members, and mandatory for all tribe employees.
Chairman Manuel Heart reported that six Ute Mountain Utes, including two in White Mesa, have tested positive for the virus. The other four positive cases are off-reservation residents in Colorado.
Montezuma County has reported a total of 46 positive cases, including 23 recoveries, 20 actives, two virus-caused deaths and one fatality of an infected man who died of alcohol poisoning.
Of the 969 COVID-19 tests that have been returned, 923 came back negative, according to county statistics There are 15 test results that are pending. The number of negative tests reported by the county may not include all tests performed in the county.
From May 14 to May 27, 13 new cases of COVID-19 were reported, including four confirmed on May 21. Montezuma County has a rate of testing of 1,605 tests per 100,000 people, according to the CDPHE. La Plata County has a rate of testing of 790 per 100,000.
At the Vista Grande Inn nursing home in Cortez, five employees tested positive for COVID-19, and four were asymptomatic, said CEO Joyce Humiston.
The employees were quarantined and have since recovered and tested negative, she said. They contracted the virus outside the nursing home during travel, she said.
After the positive staff cases, all residents were tested for the virus by Southwest Health System, and all came back negative, Humiston said.
“Our nursing home is COVID-free,” she said. “We just tested all residents and staff, and everyone is negative.”
Nursing homes are under lockdown by state health orders. No visitors are allowed, and residents are staying in their rooms and brought out one at time. Staff and residents wear masks, and there is increased sanitizing and social distancing, Humiston said.
She urged people to wear masks in public and in businesses to help slow the spread of the disease, especially important because there are likely many cases that are asymptomatic.
“Wearing a mask is not that big of a deal and shows respect for your fellow neighbor and community,” she said. “We all have rights, but we also have responsibilities. It’s disheartening to see people say the elderly and immune compromised should stay home. They can’t all stay home, they need to get out also.”