Polis Says Targeted Coronavirus Testing, Not Mass Testing, Is The Key To Reopening Colorado

Listen Now
15min 15sec
David Zalubowski/AP
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis makes a point during a news conference as a statewide stay-at-home order remains in effect in an effort to reduce the spread of the new coronavirus Wednesday, April 8, 2020, in the governor’s mansion in Denver.

Colorado’s ability to do targeted testing for COVID-19 will be a key factor in his decision on whether to lift the current stay-at- home order now set to last until April 26, Gov. Jared Polis said.

In an interview with CPR News, Polis said the state can now do 10 times more tests each day than it could a few weeks ago. But, with only one-half of one percent of the state’s residents having been tested so far, Polis said Colorado needs to do much more to be able to use testing to significantly reduce the spread of the virus.

The goal, he said, is not to test everybody, but to get to the point where officials can quarantine specific incidences and outbreaks around the state in order to control the spread. 

“It'll scale over the next week, the week after, but it'll play an even larger role as we reopen,” Polis said.

Eventually, testing will need to be incorporated into our everyday lives, Polis said, where folks who have symptoms and people exposed to them can be tested. 

“We need to be in a more nimble position to quarantine individuals and folks they've been in contact with rather than essentially what's happening now ... which is a quarantining of everybody with a stay-at-home order,” the governor said. 

But right now, Polis cautioned, anyone who has symptoms that could be COVID-19 or a bad cough or flu should continue to stay home. 

"There's probably 20,000 or 30,000 people with COVID-19 in our state and another 30,000 or 40,000 with COVID-19 symptoms that are negative and have something else,” Polis said. “The last thing we want is [everyone] scrambling around hospitals and doctor's offices getting tested for no reason.”

The governor says since there isn’t a treatment, there’s no reason for people to go out unnecessarily. 

He said the priority for testing remains healthcare workers to keep people safe and those who are admitted to a hospital. As testing ramps up, those priorities can expand. 

Polis said along with more targeted testing, the question of whether to lift the stay-at-home order will depend on whether Coloradans abide by it for now, and only go out when absolutely necessary and whether people continue to wear protective masks. 

But Polis also cautioned that when the state does reopen for business, life is still going to be a lot different from what it used to be. 

The governor said even as the state gradually returns to work, Coloradans will need to be hypervigilant, avoid large groups and follow the guidance of state officials to avoid sparking new outbreaks.

“It's not going to look like it was in January,” Polis said. “I mean, we're not at the day where there's going to be 60,000 people packed into a stadium.”