Entire county in Colorado getting tested for COVID-19

Posted at 2:52 PM, Mar 30, 2020

Telluride is a small mountain town in Colorado that is famous for its world-class ski slopes.

But soon, it might be known for its effort to fight the coronavirus.

"We were approached by a couple that lives in town, long time locals who happen to own a biomedical company," said Dr. Sharon Grundy, San Miguel County Public Health Officer

"They were gracious and offered the testing for free to our entire county which is just an unheard-of opportunity," said Grace Franklin, Public Health Director, San Miguel County

United Biomedical decided to launch its new coronavirus test in San Miguel County.

"This affects every area of the country and by creating a very clear and consistent cohort, like a small enough group that you can test everybody you can create the model that you can show how that would work," said Lou Reese who lives in Telluride with his wife Mei Mei Hu and their kids.

They're also the co-CEOs of the company United Biomedical.

The test developed by the company is different from the nasal and throat swabs you're used to knowing.

"The test is a serum blood screening ELISA," said Reese.

"Antibodies for COVID-19, so a completely different test than the nasal swab," Grundy added.

The test draws blood and analyzes if your immune system is fighting COVID-19. The test is similar to a test that detects HIV.

The county says they expect to get test results in 48 hours. So far, the fastest they've gotten results from a swab test is five days.

The plan is to test all of the county's 8,000 residents twice, 14 days apart. People sign up - but no one has to take it. Though the residents we talked to say they're eager to participate.

"This morning, I was able to fill out an application to take the test," said Kathleen Cole, who lives in Telluride.

"More information is always going to be helpful, and we'll let the experts take it from there," said John Neumann, who lives in Telluride.

The health department says testing the county's entire population will help them make decisions about how to fight the virus best.

"By seeing how the disease is spreading in our county, or not, how can we start to lift and allow little pieces of normalcy come back in, in a way that will still protect our residents and minimize the burden on our medical facilities," said Franklin.

Reese says after San Miguel County, he expects to scale the test across the country, though he wouldn't reveal exactly where.

"We went from, a week ago, ten thousand tests a week to now between one and two hundred thousand a week, and in the next month, we'll be at a million a day," said Reese.

As the pandemic continues to happen, this is just another weapon in the fight against coronavirus.