Free coronavirus testing will be offered at The Citadel mall in Colorado Springs to try to counteract a rise in infections in recent weeks, health officials said Friday.

Beginning Tuesday, drive-up testing will be conducted in the parking lot south of the J.C. Penney department store at the mall, 680 Citadel Drive.

Testing hours are 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. There will be a Spanish-speaking attendant available.

The site is the first in the county to offer tests without charge or insurance coverage, health officials said.

Officials said they took the step after the number of new cases rose from 25 daily on July 1 to 75 daily as of Friday.

Testing and contact tracing have been pushed as the disease and death toll have overtaken efforts to control its spread, especially in the South and West.

"It's important we understand how many people are truly infected," said Jim Reid, regional director of the Pikes Peak Regional Office of Emergency Management.

Although it is not required, health officials are asking those who plan to be tested to register at before arriving to speed up the testing.

Those driving in are asked to wear masks, roll down windows when requested and follow attendants' instructions before taking the nose swab test.

There will be three regular lanes and one oversized lane for trucks, including a "speed line" for those who are registered.

Test results will be available at within three to four days, officials say.

Lisa Powell, county Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Program manager, said up to 750 tests can be performed daily.

El Paso County Public Health Medical Director Dr. Robin Johnson said there are enough contact tracers to follow up with anyone who tests positive.

Johnson emphasized the importance of free testing to enable the county to increase the number of tests done and to make them available to more lower-income residents.

"We need to stay the course" with preventative measures to see numbers decrease, said Johnson.

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Reducing the number of new cases is critical to the county keeping state variances that have allowed restaurants and retail businesses to resume limited operations from being revoked.

The county recently rolled back the number of people allowed to gather indoors from 175 to 100 because of the steady increase of COVID-19 cases. 

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