Where to get a free COVID-19 test

Insurance not necessary at roughly 50 sites throughout state


Eight months into the COVID-19 pandemic's detected spread through Colorado — and with Denver metro-area counties seeing cases rise to levels that may trigger local stay-at-home orders — the need for COVID-19 tests remains high, and options abound for where Coloradans can access testing.

In March, there was confusion over the actual cost of a test. “Testing is free,” a March 10 state news release said. The state's COVID-19 website at the time echoed that.

The cost of medical visits related to getting tested was a different story.

Because of federal legislation later that month, people with any kind of private health insurance should have free access to the COVID-19 test — along with any doctor visits associated with getting the test, according to the Colorado Division of Insurance.

But some health insurance offered by Americans' employers — known as self-funded or self-insured health plans — have refused to pay for COVID-19 tests at all or have required that consumers pay some costs, according to a letter from congressional Democrats to federal officials in July.

Coloradans can avoid all the uncertainty surrounding costs by accessing testing at one of roughly 50 state-supported “community testing” locations, where testing is free, health insurance is not necessary and doctor's notes are not needed. The state generally provides testing supplies or other support to those locations.

Here are the details on where and when — and what Coloradans need to do — to get tested at those sites.

Some locations new, some closed

Since summer, the list of the major state-supported testing sites has changed — some locations have closed and some new ones have opened.

The test site at Water World at 8801 N. Pecos St. in Federal Heights continues to operate. The state operates the Water World site in partnership with Adams County through a contract with MAKO Medical, a health-care laboratory.

That's one of the state's roughly 50 “community testing” sites, according to the Colorado State Joint Information Center, which takes questions for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. A spokesperson for the center said it could not immediately provide a list of all of the sites.

The state recently updated its online map of test sites again — now at this page — but the free state-supported sites are mixed in with what appear to be private locations that charge for testing. Coloradans should call ahead of time at the phone number listed alongside the map if visiting such locations.

Here's information on hours and registration for the Water World site and other free testing locations that were open as of Nov. 13.

Hours and locations in Adams, Arapahoe

Water World — There is no cost to get tested. Visitors do not need an identification card, Social Security number or insurance. Those who have symptoms, have been exposed to someone with the coronavirus or who otherwise need a test are encouraged to come to the location, according to Adams County's COVID-19 website. Up to 1,500 tests were to be administered each day, and results were to be available within two to four days.

Visitors are urged to pre-register online for a faster visit. To register, see the county's webpage for test sites.

The Water World site in Federal Heights is open daily from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Dec. 31. It may be closed for holidays on Nov. 26 and Dec. 25. It was scheduled to be open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m on Dec. 24.

Aurora Center for Active Adults — This location in northwest Aurora provides drive-thru testing to “anyone who wants to be tested, especially those who have symptoms,” according to Tri-County Health Department's website. Tri-County is the local health agency for Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties.

Testing is free and was to provide results within four days. No health insurance is required, no doctor's note needed, no identification required and no appointment needed, according to an official flyer for the site. Visitors can save time by pre-registering here.

The site sits at 30 Del Mar Circle, a short drive west of Interstate 225 along East 6th Avenue. It's open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. It will be closed for holidays on Nov. 26, Dec. 24 and Dec. 25.

Centennial Center Park — Drive-thru, free testing is open to anyone — no health insurance, doctor's note, identification or appointment is needed, according to Tri-County's website. Visitors are encouraged to reduce wait times by pre-registering here. Results were expected to be available within four days.

“Anyone who thinks they might have been exposed to COVID-19 should get tested, even if they feel asymptomatic,” Nate Fogg, Arapahoe County's emergency manager, said in a news release announcing the testing site.

The site is at 13050 E. Peakview Ave., not far from East Arapahoe Road and South Peoria Street. It's open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily and will be closed on Nov. 26, Dec. 24 and Dec. 25.

City of Thornton municipal service center — There is no cost for testing, but those who have a health care provider are encouraged to seek testing through their provider first, according to Thornton's website. No insurance or doctor's note are required. The location is open to anyone with or without symptoms.

Pre-register here. Results were to be available in two to four days.

The location is the metal Quonset (semicircular) hut at 8651 N. Colorado Blvd., south of East 88th Avenue. Drivers can follow the directional signs. Hours are 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

Hours and locations in Denver

Denver now offers testing around the city at the following locations:

Paco Sanchez Park — This location at 1290 N. Knox Court in west Denver is not one of the state-supported community testing sites, and Denver's other locations likely are not either. The city advises those who have health insurance to schedule an appointment with a primary care provider or an urgent-care facility. Denver encourages those who do not have insurance or are “underinsured,” and are concerned they have been exposed to COVID-19, to get tested at no cost at one of the city's locations.

Denver Human Services East building — 3815 N. Steele St., a short drive southeast of North York Street and East 40th Avenue.

Green Valley Ranch pool — 4455 N. Jebel St, southeast of North Himalaya Road and Green Valley Ranch Boulevard.

The city also has some other locations scheduled. See the dates, times and locations on Denver's website.

Doctor's note not needed

People don't need a doctor's note or doctor's order to get tested at state-supported community testing sites, according to the state joint information center.

“There might be some community sites that prioritize testing for health-care workers, individuals who have symptoms or who were exposed, but we are not aware of any community testing sites that require a doctor's note,” the center said in a statement. 

The Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing has said that tests for Medicare and Medicaid members must be ordered by the member's doctor or other health-care provider, but individuals are not asked about insurance at community testing sites.  

“Our state lab analyzes all Medicare (and) Medicaid samples to ensure they are free of charge. Individuals with Medicare (or) Medicaid can be tested free of charge at any of our community testing sites and are not asked to provide proof of any type of insurance coverage,” the center said in a statement.

Other testing sites

One test provider the state had consistently listed as among its testing resources is STRIDE Community Health Center, a group of locations that are not considered state testing sites and whose funding has come from federal and private grants to support testing, Laura Larson, STRIDE's vice president of development, has told Colorado Community Media.

STRIDE offers testing at several locations in the west, east and south metro area, and no doctor's notes are required.

For individuals who have insurance, STRIDE does attempt to bill their insurance carrier first, but if a claim is denied, STRIDE will not bill the individual for the test, Larson has said. There are no fees collected at the time of testing.

STRIDE received federal grant funding from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration to cover testing costs for uninsured patients. As of early September, a cap to that funding had not been communicated, according to STRIDE.

Visit the organization's website or call 303-778-7433 for current STRIDE testing locations.

Colorado, COVID-19, free, test, site, doctor's note, insurance


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