As a young adult living in an apartment building near downtown Denver in the era of COVID-19, every day can feel like a gamble. Touching shared door handles. Using an elevator. Taking my dog out with (masked) neighbors walking by. Even if I do my part by wearing my mask, washing my hands, and keeping a distance of at least six feet, there is still a possibility of contracting the virus.
Thankfully, I, like all staff, faculty, and students, have access to free asymptomatic COVID-19 testing through CU Denver’s partnership with COVIDCheck Colorado. I’ve used the service three times in the past two months out of extra precaution for myself, my family, and my neighbors. Despite my preconception that the test would be awful and tedious, the experience was seamless.
First, I signed up for the test online using my CU ID, last name, and birthdate. Shortly after, I received an email with the location and time options for my test. Two out of the three times I was able to get a test the same day. Next, I drove to North High School and waited in line for about 20 minutes maximum. A person fully suited in PPE asked me to roll down my window, confirmed my name, and inserted a swab mid-way up both nostrils (while it isn’t the most pleasant experience, it’s not nearly as bad as the original COVID-19 nasal test). In two to three days, I received a text that my results were available online. Luckily, they were negative.
My experience isn’t unique—more than 3,900 people from CU Denver have gotten tested since the start of the fall 2020 semester. Since then, CU Denver has had 33 positive cases with campus contact, which is relatively low compared to other college campuses across the Front Range. Meaning, CU Denver’s partnership with COVIDCheck Colorado is greatly helping to protect the health of our campus community.
“Protecting our local campus communities is a privilege”
When the pandemic began, CU Denver did not have a testing site. In August, as part of its safe return to campus, the university announced its partnership with COVIDCheck Colorado. The philanthropic organization under Gary Community Investments was created to help institutions like CU Denver navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and return to school, work, and daily life safely. To date, COVIDCheck Colorado has performed 200,057 tests and prevented 19,579 outbreaks, with an average result turnaround time of just 35 hours.
COVIDCheck Colorado is immensely proud to partner with CU Denver, said CEO Eric Parrie. “Protecting our local campus communities is a privilege and a mandate for both our economy and public health,” Parrie said. “Teaming up with the many brilliant and civic-minded leaders at CU Denver has enabled CovidCheck Colorado and the university to offer gold standard COVID-19 testing on a regular basis, preventing outbreaks before they start and protecting the essential learning and growth that CU Denver makes possible for its students every day.”
For CU Denver faculty and staff, the testing was originally offered at $10 and soon after reduced to $6. It has always been free for students visiting campus and living in Lynx Crossing Residence Hall, which periodically tests its residents.
Since early November, the testing service has been free to all employees, students, and members of their households —which is even more of an incentive to use it.
Doing Our Part to Protect Our Community
Alana Jones, interim vice provost and senior vice chancellor of Student Success, has taken the COVID-19 asymptomatic test twice, once in late August and again in mid-November with her husband. Both times, she was very impressed with the ease of access, the professionalism of the CovidCheck Colorado staff, and the rapid return of her results.
“Our strong safety protocols are critical to the health and well-being of our community: wearing a mask, social distancing, hand washing, staying home if we are sick, and other hygiene practices,” she added. “There is no substitute for these protocols. These tests are another opportunity for me to do my part to check whether I am asymptomatic.”
CovidCheck Colorado is offering free testing through Dec. 31, and we encourage all Lynx to utilize the service while we can. Starting Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, the Health Center at Auraria will resume drive-through COVID-19 testing for both asymptomatic individuals (those without symptoms) and symptomatic individuals (those with symptoms), by appointment.
To reiterate Jones’ point, the tests are another opportunity to do our part in these challenging and uncertain times.
-Alex DeWind is a staff member on the University Communications team