Gov. Jared Polis is tested for coronavirus to demonstrate how simple the test is in Wheat Ridge on Monday.

Those with symptoms of coronavirus can now get tested — for free — and are encouraged to do so, Gov. Jared Polis said Monday, marking the first time Coloradans with symptoms have been asked to seek testing instead of self-isolating at home.

PHOTOS: Documenting COVID-19 in the Pikes Peak region

The state now has enough supplies that symptomatic residents, as well as essential workers without symptoms, can get tested at one of 32 community testing centers, or at private hospitals and doctors offices, Polis said, adding that testing is free regardless of whether one has insurance.

"It's better for all of us if you go to a convenient testing center near you and get a free test," Polis said to those who are symptomatic. "Cost is not a barrier. There is no copay, no out-of-pocket for testing."

Antibody testing can also be performed at community testing centers and private medical facilities, he said. A list of community testing centers can be found online at covid.colorado.gov.

As of Monday, Colorado had 22,202 cases of COVID-19 diagnosed, although officials have said those numbers could be multiple times higher because of a lack of availability of testing, as well as those with the virus being asymptomatic in up to half of all cases. The state had 3,899 people hospitalized with COVID-19. There were 1,224 deaths among the coronavirus cases, with 921 deaths directly attributed to the virus.

In an effort to show how quick, painless and simple the coronavirus test is, Polis was tested at his Monday morning press conference outside the Stride Community Health Center in Wheat Ridge.

"That's it. Feels like a little tickle," Polis said after wincing as his nasal passage was swabbed. Coloradans should receive their test results in 24-48 hours, he said.

The governor was given an Abbott-manufactured coronavirus test last week ahead of his visit to the White House, but the test he received Monday in Colorado, not manufactured by Abbott, is far more accurate, he said.

Shifting to the economy, Polis reiterated his goal to release May 25 an opening date for dine-in service at restaurants. Guidance for how restaurants will be allowed to operate will be released later Monday or sometime Tuesday in order to allow business owners to prepare, he said.

Outdoor dining options — including parking lots, sidewalks and streets — will be encouraged, Polis said, citing a "major difference" between "internal, recirculating airflow and outside."

"You're safer six feet apart from someone outside rather than in an inside setting with limited air flow," he said.

The state will waive every rule and regulation it can — including the prohibition of serving beer and wine on the streets — to set restaurants up for success during the pandemic, but ultimate control will lie with municipalities, he said. 

"If cities value having restaurants and keeping them in business, it's really important they open their sidewalks" and perhaps even streets, Polis said. "Restaurants can't stay in business at quarter or half capacity."

As for schools, Polis said statewide guidance for modified operations will be issued within the next few weeks and implemented by districts this fall. Lunches and passing times will be staggered, allowing students to largely remain with the same group all day, and social distancing will be facilitated within classrooms, he said.

"We can't go back to how we lived in January and February," Polis said while discussing the continued need for masks and social distancing, for which he said there is no end date. 

"If people give up on social distancing and stop wearing masks, the hospitals will be flooded." 

In other news:

- Those with flu-like symptoms are especially encouraged to get tested. The flu is largely gone from the state thanks to both the passing of the flu season and social distancing. Runny noses and congestion are more likely to be associated with a cold. COVID19 is more likely to present as shortness of breath, cough and fever, Polis said.

- The presence of COVID-19 antibodies likely signals stronger resistance to the virus in the future, but antibodies may not fully protect someone against a second coronavirus infection, he said.

- As of Sunday, Colorado had nearly 22,000 cases of the virus diagnosed, though officials have said those numbers could be multiple times higher due to a lack of availability of testing, as well as those with the virus being asymptomatic in up to half of all cases. The state had nearly 3,900 hospitalized, with 1,215 deaths.


Colorado Springs Goodwill employees test positive for COVID-19, store closed.

Where you can get tested for coronavirus in the Colorado Springs area.

Colorado doctors watching for potential coronavirus-related syndrome affecting children.

PHOTOS: Documenting COVID-19 in the Pikes Peak region.

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