Testing sites

Roaring Fork Neurology, in Willits Town Center, is launching a communitywide COVID-19 testing site capable of processing 250 tests per day at the Eagle County Community Center in the El Jebel parking lot today. While the program is a “no questions” one, an appointment is necessary.

 

By Monday, there had already been about two dozen people who had made appointments for the free drive-thru testing option operated by Roaring Fork Neurology in Willits, which starts today.

And that was before Dr. Brooke Allen had even advertised the new testing site — which will be able to process up to 250 COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, saliva tests per day. While no physician’s referral will be necessary, appointments will be required and can be made via rfvcovidtest.com.

Allen, like the testing program rolled out in the school system at the start of the month and by the city and county through the end of 2020, took advantage of unused CARES Act funding to create robust, communitywide testing at least through the end of the year.

“Whatever the reason is [for testing], [it’s] no questions asked and at no cost to them,” Allen said Monday. “The state is going to run out of CARES Act money at the end of December, and we saw an opportunity to make good use of those funds.”

Allen’s practice has already been offering testing, but this is the first time she and her team have been able to expand the service to anyone seeking it.

To that effect, Roaring Fork Neurology has been partnering with MicroGenDx, a Texas-based testing company, to fulfill its patient needs since April. So when it became clear broader testing was feasible — at least through the end of the year — Allen didn’t see any reason to not continue the relationship.

“They’re a company that has a lot of experience with testing, and they provide the saliva PCR test with about a 48-hour turnaround time from the time a person gets a test to the time we get the result, and can share it with the client,” she said. “We’ve had such a great experience with them since April.”

MicroGen — like the Los Angeles-based vendor Curative, which the Aspen School District and Pitkin County utilize in their 2020 testing programs — has a contract with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. For the local provider and patient, that means no cost is passed to the patient. As long as a test falls within the “medically necessary” requirements outlined by the CARES Act — that is, symptomatic or with a known exposure to a COVID-19 case — no patient should see a bill, though an insurance company may. For those without insurance, tests are actually billed to the federal government, so long as they fit within the CARES Act parameters.

“MicroGen then gives some of that money to my team, and we set up a testing site. We’ve set up one at the El Jebel, which is at the Eagle County Community Center,” Allen explained.

But, she’s made it clear, El Jebel is hardly the only backyard available to such sites.

“We have meetings later this week to set up other sites throughout the valley. We’re hopeful we’re going to get another site in Glenwood and, really, anywhere someone thinks there could be a site with minimal red tape,” she said, adding that a sometimes unassuming, would-be testing site comes with actual homeowners association fees and the like, making the implementation of such an operation not feasible.

“Sometimes you get into HOA dues and HOA liability insurance issues and all this,” she allowed.

Still, Allen said that she’s been in close contact with Pitkin County throughout the process.

“We work with Pitkin County constantly. We did a large group of testing for a presumed outbreak in Pitkin County,” she said. “We work with them all the time, and we had definitely said, ‘If this [other] partnership doesn’t work out, we’re happy to put a site in wherever you want — we just need three days’ notice.”

She added that municipalities like Pitkin County are “stretched to their limit” as case numbers and incident rates continue to rise, requiring additional public health restrictions. Those layers add additional responsibilities on local governments not immediately thrust on private medical practices, Allen emphasized.

“Pitkin is still doing a great job,” she said. “It’s so important for our community — even though there’s COVID fatigue — it’s so important that you always wear a mask. It makes such a difference. My office has been open: we wear masks, we’re all together. We don’t have cases here. Wearing a mask works.”

Megan Tackett is the editor for the Aspen Daily News. She can be reached at megan@aspendailynews.com or on Twitter @MeganTackett10.