COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — On Thursday, the pace of positive COVID-19 tests reported in El Paso County dropped to 99 for every 100,000 residents. That change was significant public health officials consider the threshold of 100 cases per 100,000 residents to be a redline for risking greater community spread of the virus.
Dr. Robin Johnson, Medical Director for El Paso County Public Health, believes this downward trend is the result of a broad mitigation strategy put in place earlier this summer when infections reached as his as 157 cases per 100,000 residents.
"What we are trying to do is really get ahead of this," she said.
One key part of the strategy was to make it faster and easier for people who think they may be sick to get tested. The health department and county office of emergency management set up a drive-thru testing site at the Citadel Mall on August 7.
"It is easy to access, it is free and we've been having maybe 5 to 8 minute wait times," Johnson said.
Workers have collected an average of 300 tests per day since the site was opened. Johnson said many of those test results have come back negative in recent days.
"We actually want to see increasing numbers of tests with decreasing test positivity rate, and that's what we've been able to see with the increased access to testing through the Citadel testing site," she said.
The mall location is the third drive-up site to open in Colorado Springs. Earlier test sites operated by UCHealth and Peak Vista continue to collect tests as well.
Dr. Johnson said the expansion of testing is intended to coincide with their public outreach efforts to encourage citizens to continue wearing masks, observing social distancing guidelines, and staying home when sick.
"I think that what we're seeing is that these are effective in that our incidence is decreasing," said Johnson.
While the current trend is a positive development, she warns that the Labor Day holiday and the back-to-school season will present challenges in the weeks ahead. She wants everyone to remain vigilant as we head into the fall.
"This is a social virus," Johnson said. "So, it is a really good time for us to remember our preventive measures."
The Citadel Mall test site is free. Proof of insurance is not required to be tested. Likewise, there is no need for a doctor's referral. People who believe they may be experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 are encouraged to register before visiting the drive-up test site to help keep the traffic moving.