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Anonymous donors have stepped up in Southwest Colorado to pay for anyone who can’t afford a coronavirus test to be tested.
Liane Jollon, executive director of San Juan Basin Public Health, said a private donor in Durango has contributed enough money to cover anyone who needs to be tested but can’t afford it.
“There’s plenty in the fund, and they (the donor) will replenish it,” she said.
Widespread community testing became available in Southwest Colorado on April 9 after a private lab, Cedar Diagnostics, announced it had acquired 800 test kits and then developed its own test, which is now unlimited.
Testing locations are available in Durango, Cortez and Pagosa Springs.
Tests initially cost $99 but were soon lowered to $75 after Cedar negotiated a lower price, said Michelle Roach, director of operations for the lab.
Then, to qualify for financial assistance through the CARES Act, Cedar Diagnostics had to offer tests at the Medicare rate of $50, which is the current price of the test.
The CARES Act also required Cedar Diagnostics to refund the difference to people who paid $75 or $99 for tests. But, Roach said 95% of the people due reimbursements – at least 100 people – instead chose to have that money placed in a fund for people who can’t afford tests.
“Don’t we live in an amazing community?” Roach said.
People who live within Durango city limits who can’t afford testing qualify for the fund created by the anonymous donor’s fund.
If people live outside city limits, or in other parts of Southwest Colorado, Roach said she uses the reimbursement money people chose to donate. She added private donors in Pagosa Springs have also contributed money to the cause in that community.
SJBPH spokeswoman Claire Ninde said two Durango residents have received financial assistance so far. To be eligible, people are asked how much they make a month, the number of people who are supported by that income and whether they have insurance.
Ninde said people who don’t have insurance are asked to pay some or all of the $50 fee, but the health department does not turn anyone away who can’t pay.
Roach said another two people from Ignacio and Mancos were beneficiaries of the donated reimbursement funds. And 18 people in Pagosa Springs were helped by anonymous donors.
To date, Cedar Diagnostics has tested 640 people. Roach said 10 people in Southwest Colorado have tested positive since community testing became available.
She said the lab was double-booked during the first few days after testing became available. Now, the lab is single-booked.
“It hasn’t slowed a lot,” she said. “We’re still doing a lot of tests.”
A nonprofit called Clinica Colorado recently launched a free hotline for COVID-19 screening and telehealth services for Coloradoans without health insurance, which can be accessed by calling (720) 902-9449 or (855) 963-3721.
As of Friday morning, La Plata County reported 55 positive cases and Archuleta County had eight positive cases.