Mesa County in the Running to Help State Process COVID-19 Tests

Local News

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo.- The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is exploring a plan to speed up test results, and it involves Mesa County. State officials could reach a decision as soon as next week.

Mesa County Public Health Director Jeff Kuhr says one of he and his team’s labs could become a hub for processing COVID-19 tests from across the Western Slope.

The lab would be operated by the state and staffed by a contracted company. Jeff Kuhr says as of late, the time in getting COVID-19 results back has increased dramatically.

“A few weeks ago we were as quick as 24-48 hours,” Kuhr said. “And then it got to five days and then it got to seven days. Everyone is overwhelmed nationally with these tests.”

Kuhr says most COVID-19 tests done in Colorado are sent and processed at the state health department in Denver. He adds having a Western Slope test processing lab could save time and money, and that the lab at Mesa County Public Health could process about 120 tests per hour.

“The courier time and expense is pretty big for us all to be shipping our samples over once a day,” Kuhr said. Kuhr adds the state is exploring this option not only to speed up results, but also avoid any potential shipping delays in test results once the weather gets cold and mountain highways are faced with snow.

For a Grand Junction hospital, quicker turnaround time for results could mean a world of difference. The chief medical officer at Community Hospital says, elective surgeries can happen faster, and those coming into the hospital with respiratory problems can get the right care.

“The process time will decrease because you won’t have the transport time,” said CMO Dr. Thomas Tobin. “If you take a sample that we collect here and it has to be sent to Denver or somewhere else across the country, you’re losing at least a day.”

Tobin also says, if a test on a hospital patient comes back negative, this means vital personal protective equipment can be rationed.

“If we can determine they don’t have coronavirus, then the precautions we take will be different,” Tobin said. “Whether its gowns gloves masks etc., the more we can conserve the better.”

Back at Mesa County Public Health, Kuhr says this new test processing lab is fairly likely.

“I think it’s pretty likely and I would feel good with us having that here in Mesa County and in Grand Junction.”

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