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New COVID-19 test site now available in Silt

COVID-19 testing assistant Michael Camacho hands a patient a testing kit at the new COVID-19 testing site in Silt. Chelsea Self / Post Independent

They used to visit Silt Town Hall every Wednesday.

A bevy of local seniors, looking to enjoy free hot lunches subsidized by Garfield County and prepared by volunteers, simple conversation and some good company.

That has all changed since COVID-19. Now the meals are distributed through a drive-up service, while the practice of social distancing has prevented the practice of in-house dining.



Nonetheless, Monday saw a new activity taking up space in the town center parking lot: free COVID-19 testing to the general public.

Anyone — health insurance is not required — can make an appointment online, then show up to the local medical tent and get tested for COVID-19. The service runs week days, 7 a.m. to noon.



COVID-19 testing assistant Nancy Singleton sorts through paperwork inside the tent and the COVID-19 testing site in Silt. Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Medical workers dressed head-to-toe in protective garb simply give an individual a cup, which the individual spits into and then that cup is subsequently sent off to get tested by MicroGenDX, a microbial diagnostics testing company based in Texas. The entire process also includes Spanish-speaking translators.

The results are then relayed back to the patient within 2-3 days.

“It’s a great way you can test, for as many times as you like,” Roaring Fork Neurology and Mountain, P.C. Brooke Allen, MD, said. “We have some people that test themselves once a week because they’re around a relative that’s higher risk for complications from COVID-19.”

Allen said the tests have a sensitivity rate of 75-80%, meaning the risk of receiving a false positivity is extremely low, Allen said.

Since November 2020, the Basalt-based research center has helped conduct COVID-19 tests using five respective test sites throughout the Roaring Fork Valley — Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, El Jebel, Snowmass Village and Aspen. Their funding, initially allocated by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Each week since then has seen an average of 2,000 people get tested, with about 500-700 tests conducted per day, Allen said. Such a substantial turnaround prompted the need for more testing sites. About 24 people were tested Monday at the site in Silt.

“I think access to testing has been the biggest issue and in fact one of our most important missions with our website and our testing services is that we did not want to have any requirement for a doctor’s referral or for a doctor’s order or a doctor’s visit,” Allen said.

So far, mobile, curvature — meaning, oral-fluid swab — testing sites have also been made available in Rifle, Parachute and New Castle.

COVID-19 testing site assistants Michael Camacho and Nancy Singleton work together to label and sort tests and the new COVID-19 testing site in Silt. Chelsea Self / Post Independent

But for the tent in Silt, which is essentially in its beginning stages, the community seems to already be chipping in as much as they can.

“Some folks in the local library in Silt have volunteered to help get a group of seniors to sign up,” Allen said.

MORE THAN JUST A PLACE TO READ

Silt Branch Library Manager Linda Lewis knows who visits on a regular basis.

“There is a senior center here in Silt and we have very active people in our town and they do use the library,” she said. “One day we heard from someone that all of the testing centers seem to be popping up everywhere but here.”

So Lewis reached out to Garfield County Public Health.

“Not everybody has access to transportation to be able to go to those other testing sites, so I contacted county public health and they were very nice in getting back to me, and next thing I knew they were making the announcement that they were looking to open a new one,” Lewis said.

Once the site opened, the local public library did more: they helped facilitate appointments for a group of seniors to get tested at the site — the very same place where they used to congregate every Wednesday for lunch.

Beyond public health, Lewis said having the test site in town provides a good opportunity for travelers to explore Main Street Silt.

“The town is so welcoming and has so many things to offer,” she said. Lewis also commended the city for allowing their parking lot to be used by Roaring Fork Neurology. “Because Like I always say, Silt neighbors are the best neighbors.”

With that, Lewis was asked what it’s like to have a COVID-19 testing site so close to the library — especially when she was used to seeing seniors grabbing lunch every Wednesday.

“To have this tent here, it just feels right, it just feels normal,” she said. “It feels like, well of course we would do that here.”

All that’s remaining, Lewis said, are the vaccinations.

rerku@citizentelegram.com


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