Concerns hit schools, drive virus testing center traffic

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DENVER (AP) — Concerns are fueling school closures and state health officials were forced to close a drive-thru coronavirus testing center in Denver on Thursday because people were waiting in line for up to three hours.

Denver and Aurora public schools are among those extending their spring breaks. Denver Public Schools will close March 16 and reopen April 7. Scott Bookman, incident commander for the state’s public health response to the virus, said about 160 people came to the virus testing site at the state lab over a four-hour span Wednesday, and “we had a major influx of people" Thursday.

“There were hundreds and hundreds of cars lined up to the point that it was going to become a safety hazard given that it was blocking traffic,” he said.

The drive-thru will reopen Friday.

Demand for tests at the center, which opened Wednesday, underscored concerns about the rapid spread of the virus, with at least 49 positive cases identified statewide.

The drive-thru center serves those who have doctors’ orders to be tested.

Health officials urged people who feel ill to contact their doctors by telephone or email for guidance and, if needed, get an order for testing. The private diagnostics firm LabCorp is performing coronavirus tests, complementing state and federal testing.

Meanwhile, the wave of closures and cancellations intended to mitigate the virus’ spread continued Thursday.

State prisons suspended visits. The Air Force Academy is closing to visitors starting Friday evening. Commerce City closed its civic center and recreational facilities, and Colorado’s pro and college sports events were suspended.

There are not yet enough cases in the state to warrant banning large gatherings, which are considered to be 250 people or more, but the option is still on the table, Bookman said.

“The more testing we do, the more likely we are to find cases." he said. “We anticipate numbers to rise significantly."

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