The Southern Ute Indian Tribe will hold its second communitywide testing event Aug. 12 and Aug. 13 to identify any COVID-19 hot spots within the community.
The tribe and its partners, International Medical Relief and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, plan to conduct about 2,000 tests during the event. Local, non-Native American community members can receive testing, but priority will be given to tribal members, according to a SUIT news release. The free, voluntary tests will help identify people who are currently infected with the coronavirus.
“As the number of positive cases increase in the neighboring jurisdictions, the viral test will help determine how widespread the virus is, identify hot spots within our community and aid in the tribal priority of keeping our tribal members safe,” the news release said.
As of Tuesday, about 147,000 deaths had been linked to the virus as cases have risen nationally. In Colorado, 1,668 people had died because of the virus.
The Southern Ute reservation spans three counties in Southwest Colorado, including Archuleta, La Plata and a small portion of Montezuma. La Plata and Archuleta counties recorded 222 cases as of Tuesday. For La Plata County, the highest risk of exposure comes from visitors from Texas, which was a national hot spot and saw a peak in new cases in the first half of July.
The two-day testing event will be held at the Sky Ute Casino Resort overflow parking lot from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. The event will not offer antibody tests, which indicate past exposure to the virus.
Interested local residents have allotted times for testing, depending on their tribal affiliation.
Tribal members and immediate household members, including non-enrolled tribal members, enrolled members of the Ute Mountain Ute and Ute Indian Tribe can have the test performed either day.
Tribal elders and those who identify as high-risk for contracting COVID-19 have priority times from 8 to 9 a.m. both days.
Testing for tribal staff members will take place from noon to 5 p.m. Aug. 12. Local community members can receive tests from noon to 5 p.m. Aug. 13.
The tribe conducted its first communitywide testing event in June. Originally, the tests were limited to tribal members, but the tribe expanded availability to include non-Native community members because of low turnout.
People who come for testing must comply with the tribe’s mandatory mask order, issued in July, and wear face coverings at the testing site. The tribe’s “Stay at Home” order, which began in March, remains in effect.
“The Southern Ute Indian Tribe’s most important resource is the enrolled Southern Ute tribal members, and without its members, the tribe would not exist,” the news release said.