More than two months into the COVID-19 pandemic in Colorado, Gov. Jared Polis announced on Monday that anyone who is symptomatic for the virus can get a test for free.
The governor also announced that by the end of Monday, restaurateurs should get their first look at state guidance for re-opening dine-in restaurants.
The news on testing is a change from a month ago, when a critical lack of supplies meant testing was reserved for health care workers, those in hospitals for the virus or first responders. Back then, the advice was if someone exhibited flu-like symptoms, they should self-isolate for 14 days.
The difference: testing supplies, both from the strategic national stockpile and through public/private efforts within Colorado.
"We have enough testing," Polis said, standing in front of the STRIDE Community Health Center in Wheat Ridge. "If you have symptoms you can get tested," he said.
Polis also noted that flu cases are down because of social distancing, so someone with flu-like symptoms is more likely to have COVID-19 than the flu.
The state has set a goal of 8,500 tests per day by the end of May. The lab at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment can handle as many as 10,000 tests per day.
With testing being free, those without health insurance can get tested as well.
There are 32 community testing sites around the state and dozens more, operated by health care providers. Even Kroger, which operates King Soopers and City Market stores, and Walmart are now offering testing at a limited number of stores, Polis said.
During the news conference, Polis got tested with a nasal swab.
Dr. Savita Ginde, STRIDE's chief medical officer, said they have been testing a multiple locations, and out of 10,000 swab tests, 21% have come back positive. They're also doing antibody tests, with about 9% showing antibodies for COVID-19, she said.
Polis also announced his office would release draft guidelines for reopening restaurants for dine-in services. He said one of the best options is for those businesses to offer outdoor services, such as in parking lots or streets, with permission of local governments. The state will waive regulations wherever applicable, he said. Outdoor dining is a good option because of Colorado's beautiful weather, he said. "Restaurants can't stay in business on one-quarter capacity," Polis said.
Restaurant owners will have two to three days to offer feedback on the guidelines, and then those will be finalized by Friday. He still anticipates allowing restaurants to reopen by Memorial Day, which is next Monday, May 25.
The governor also addressed an executive order issued over the weekend on allowing remote gathering of signatures for petitions. Polis said he doesn't like a lot of the initiatives, but it's about the people's right to petition, which is why he signed the order.
However, the order would exclude the anti-abortion petition, which is in the "cure" period for obtaining enough signatures to make the ballot. Polis said the executive order deals with ballot measures that have gone out to petition after the pandemic started. Petitions on the abortion ban were due March 4, the day before the announcement of Colorado's first positive case of COVID-19 and a week before the executive order declaring a disaster emergency.