Fifty Colorado National Guard members provided aid in Montrose Monday as public health officials conducted screenings of people for the coronavirus, COVID-19.
Two National Guard units worked alongside the Colorado State Patrol, Montrose County Sheriff’s Department and the Montrose Fire Protection District at the drive-up COVID-19 testing center at the event center. The National Guard members on site were trained medics, who provided aid to the county.
According to a Guard press release, Mike Loh, the adjutant general of Colorado U.S. Air Force said, “The National Guard has unique capabilities that can provide our state additional resources to combat COVID-19. Most of the personnel responding now are our state’s resident-trained and equipped experts in biological hazards.”
Katie Yergensen, the Montrose County media relations manager, said Monday’s screening serviced around 100 residents from Montrose and Delta counties, who had been pre-screened by their healthcare provider or public health. Following the pre-screening, residents were scheduled for an appointment at the drive-up testing center, which helped medical professionals complete testing quickly.
“This is only for individuals that are pre-screened individuals, who have met the criteria outlined by the CDPHE (Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment).”
The process of a drive-thru testing site is for patients exhibiting symptoms of fever, chills, cough or shortness of breath.
After state troopers verified residents had been pre-screened and checked identification, the people being tested were guided through caution cones, stopping at multiple checkpoints in the event center.
“To minimize contact, they conducted in-car screenings,” Yergensen said. “Our goal truly is just keeping people as safe as possible. It takes a team to do that.”
During testing, the patient rolled down the window slightly as a lab technician swabbed the back of his or her throat. That sample was then placed inside a sterile container and sent to the lab for testing. Once the sample was taken, the patient proceeded to drive out of the event center.
The coronavirus testing time varied in length based upon the number of vehicles.
Following the screening, Yergensen said she received positive feedback from the Guard personnel.
“This was just a great facility to utilize, so they didn’t have to set up tents because of the large, indoor facility,” she said.
Since the event center has been the site of vaccination clinics in the past, Yergensen said it was easy for the health officials and local agencies to organize the COVID-19 testing center.
Securing the testing kits has been a challenge, but the county is working to address the need.
“We’re hoping to procure additional testing kits and it’s something that the county is going to continue to advocate for,” she said. “People will also be able to get new test kits either through public health or through their primary care providers as well.”
As the spread of the coronavirus continues, Yergensen encouraged the community to practice social distancing or physical distancing.
“We’re really asking and pushing for people, who are well and if they are able to work remotely from home, to do so,” Yergensen said.
While tele-working is a good alternative to limit face-to-face contact with others, Yergensen also discussed the importance of staying connected with the community.
“With the social and physical distancing, try to limit your contact and exposure as you’re able, but stay connected with people,” she said. “I think it’s important from a mental health perspective to make sure and use your FaceTime and call your neighbors.”
Yergensen said outings to the grocery store should also be limited to reduce contact with people and exposure to surfaces where the virus might live.
If residents believe they are experiencing mild symptoms of COVID-19, Yergensen encouraged them to isolate themselves from others and treat it as they would cold symptoms and contact their doctor. Residents, who are experiencing symptoms connected to COVID-19 are encouraged to call their doctors about setting up an appointment.
There is currently no plan to schedule additional drive-up testing dates as Yergensen said, “We’re trying to adhere to testing for those who meet the CDPHE guidelines.”
With the spread of the coronavirus continuing across the region, local health officials and municipalities will continue to take steps to protect the public.
“Montrose is an incredibly generous and giving community and we take care of each other,” she said. “This will be no different than any other situation we’ve persevered through before.”
Aside from Montrose, the Guard has responded to requests sent from the state operations center in Telluride and Pueblo.
Lauren Brant is a staff writer and the digital content coordinator for the Montrose Daily Press.