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Testing Demand Increases Across Colorado As COVID Omicron Variant Spreads Ahead Of Christmas

DENVER (CBS4) - With the holidays quickly approaching and the COVID-19 Omicron variant in all but five states, the demand for testing is increasing across Colorado. For hours Monday, the line to get a PCR test slowly snaked its way through the parking lot at George Washington High School, one of 25 metro area testing sites run by COVIDCheck Colorado. 

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"It was really slow," said Levi Gillis. "When I got tested over the summer, it took like ten or five minutes, but it took an hour plus this time." 

Following a possible exposure, Gillis and his mother joined the line of more than 50 cars. The high schooler said he had two negative test results already, but wanted one more before visiting with friends and family on Christmas break. 

"I'm glad I came and got tested today just because I want to know," he said.

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The site at George Washington High School is one of many with COVIDCheck Colorado currently seeing a surge in demand. That change could be a result of the time of year and the presence of a new variant, experts say.  

"At our test sites today we're at over 7,000 tests, which has surpassed any total we had last week," said Joshua Posner, senior director of operations with COVIDCheck Colorado.  

According to Posner, the company expects to process more than 10,000 tests statewide on Monday alone, a volume only reached a handful of times this pandemic.  

"We were really close to that the Monday before Thanksgiving of this year, and we expect to see that next Monday as well with New Year's Eve coming up," Posner said.  

As a result, the company has increased the number of appointments available at several sites and expects the turnaround for test results to remain at 2 or 3 days. 

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But, while many rush for a negative test before gathering over the next two weeks, Dr. Richard Zane, chief of emergency medicine for UCHealth, said it's not necessarily the best strategy. 

"Being tested is nice on a populational basis," Zane said. "On an individual basis when you're asymptomatic, it's less useful."  

As hospitals like his see more reinfection and breakthrough cases, Zane said the best way to stay safe remains the same as it's always been.  

"There is nothing that is more important than being vaccinated and boosted," he said. "Nothing even comes close to that."  

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