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Busy hospitals urge people to take free rapid at-home COVID tests hoping to prevent hospitalizations

State hoping free tests will lead to earlier treatment and will help people isolate
Busy hospitals urge people to take free rapid at-home COVID tests hoping to prevent hospitalizations
Posted at 5:00 AM, Oct 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-25 09:14:53-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — Hospitals in our communities and across the state say they are strained right now as people continue to be hospitalized with COVID-19 infections. Just a few weeks ago Governor Jared Polis announced an effort to get more people tested by sending rapid tests right to their homes. News5 looks into how it's going and why testing remains crucial in our COVID-19 response.

The state recently purchased two million rapid COVID tests with the goal of getting them in the hands of Colorado residents for free. That way they can test themselves at home and find out within 15 minutes if they need to take steps to isolate and manage a COVID infection.

"We know that testing is one of the key areas to keep people safe. The sooner that somebody knows that they have COVID and they are contagious the sooner they can take the steps to self isolate protecting even their close family members from contracting the deadly virus," said Polis.

Providing this kind of testing is coming at a time when it's needed most. Hospital leaders like Rob Welch at UChealth say more people need to take COVID tests.

"The hospitals are absolutely full right now and it's not just UCHealth it's hospitals up and down the front range. We're facing capacity issues across the board. So the more folks that can get tested and can get early treatment and take care of themselves and prevent themselves from getting into the hospital it's much better for us," said Welch.

According to state numbers sent to News5 on October 15th, at least 242,000 rapid covid tests have been sent out to Colorado homes. Of those, 8.3% went to El Paso County residents and 1.9% were sent to folks in Pueblo County.

Each order includes eight of these antigen tests, which include a nasal swab and rapid testing kit producing results in a matter of minutes.

"So if you get an at home test and it's positive you should contact your physician and consult with them on what the next steps should be. It's very well possible that you could be a candidate for antibody therapy which is another way we can keep you out of the hospital as well," said Welch.

But healthcare leaders say many people talk themselves out of getting tested and it only causes more problems.

"I just had a little scratch in my throat, I didn't really think I needed to get tested and then we find out down the road that those folks actually did have COVID," said Welch.

Hospital leaders insists a personal commitment to testing can help our frontline workers manage the situation and get a better understanding of what's going on with COVID-19 locally.

"We are at a very critical state right now. Staff is stretched very thin. We need the help of keeping these people out of the hospital so we can take care of other people with really critical conditions who are out there," said Welch.

You can sign up to get the free rapid tests at the state's COVID-19 testing website: