testing

Residents line up outside of the Telluride Middle/High School for their COVID-19 tests this week. (Photo courtesy of San Miguel County)

The first round of voluntary COVID-19 antibody blood tests was completed in the East End of San Miguel County Tuesday, according to officials. As of Monday, 4,482 residents had been tested, including 197 essential workers in the West End who were tested at Norwood High School’s all-purpose room.

“Everything went exceptionally well, and we exceeded our goals,” said Susan Lilly, county public information officer.

Though everyone who signed up to be tested had an assigned time, the process went so smoothly that residents were invited to come to the Telluride Intermediate School gymnasium, where all East End testing took place, earlier if they wanted.

“We ensured a safe environment, and we were efficient,” said Dr. Sharon Grundy, county medical officer. “We appreciate the response of the volunteers and overall commitment to this countywide effort.”

Up to 75 people, including numerous volunteers, were on site to help with the testing over the weekend and earlier this week. Lilly said people were grateful for the testing opportunity. 

“People are appreciative of the safe, efficient and smooth testing process, and it’s because of the extraordinary efforts of people behind the scenes who set up this unprecedented operation and the fantastic volunteers executing it,” she said.

Officials expect to have test results back two to three days after they arrive at the United Biomedical Inc. — the parent company of c19, which is providing the tests for free — New York lab. Since the state of New York is currently on lockdown as it’s become the nation’s COVID-19 epicenter, it may take longer than anticipated. 

“Because the lab is in the New York area, we need to be sensitive to any constraints they may have to run at full capacity,” Lilly said.

Officials plan to continue testing in the West End Thursday, starting with residents 60 years of age and older from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. at the high school all-purpose room. The schedule is broken down in groups. Group A, which will be tested from 9:30-11:30 a.m., includes all residents living between mile-marker 93 on Highway 145 and County Road 44ZS/ZN. Group B consists of residents living between county roads 44ZS/ZN and 42ZS/ZN, and will be tested between 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. Group C, residents living between County Road 42ZS/ZN and the Basin Store, will be tested between 3-5 p.m.

Some seniors were tested Monday, as officials are working with the Uncompahgre Medical Clinic in rolling out West End testing.

“The testing went so well, we opened it up to our seniors as well. We have everything in place to offer a safe and efficient process for everyone,” Norwood Fire Chief John Bockrath said in a news release.

To sign up for testing, register to receive CodeRED alerts and pre-register at c19SMC.com, where information about the test is available and consent forms can be filled out. Residents will be notified within 24 hours of their appointment. The same message will be broadcasted on KOTO. Volunteers will be on hand at the testing site to help anybody who doesn’t have internet access sign up on their cellphones. 

County officials have still not received the results of the 100 swab tests that were conducted by the Colorado National Guard and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment in Lawson Hill March 17, which they were expecting by the end of last week at the latest.

"(The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment) has advised San Miguel County that they are experiencing significant delays in processing those tests and getting results back to us,” said Grace Franklin, county public health director. “Today marks 14 days since the test was administered, thereby rendering those results less helpful than if we had received them within the three to five days as we expected.”

The current countywide testing program ideally includes two blood draws — one initially and one after the participant self isolates for 14 days. Officials have explained the mass testing will provide critical data that they’ll use to manage the situation moving forward. As of press time Tuesday, the county has one positive case.