Local officials to discontinue Curative COVID-19 tests in Aspen, Basalt
Aspen Valley Hospital, Pitkin County are no longer standing behind test’s efficacy
A week after standing behind the widely used Curative COVID-19 tests, Pitkin County and Aspen Valley Hospital are discontinuing the use of them as of Friday.
Aspen School District stopped using Curative for asymptomatic testing on Thursday at 3:30 p.m., according to David Baugh, superintendent of schools.
The announcement comes after the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment on Thursday morning released new guidance on the administration of Curative tests for community-based testing.
Based on direction from the Food and Drug Administration, CDPHE is concerned about Curative sample collection methods leading to possible false negative results.
Last week, the CDPHE was supporting the use of Curative in the state’s communities, while closely monitoring and evaluating the test’s effectiveness.
The earlier support of Curative by local health officials was based on the FDA’s lack of data or evidence that there is a higher risk of false negative results over other testing methods.
But the CDPHE on Thursday advised local public health and site administrators to transition away from using Curative for asymptomatic community testing. Curative is only approved for symptomatic testing — not asymptomatic testing.
Baugh said via email Thursday evening that top level medical personnel who have been advising the school district are perplexed by the decision to go a different direction.
“Aspen School District finds the timing of the FDA announcement unusual and not supported by data that has been shared with us,” he said. “Curative testing is good enough for the President’s asymptomatic testing of his team, we think it is probably good enough for ours.”
The Curative test for the general public is self-administered at the kiosk behind Aspen City Hall and at a site in Basalt.
As of Thursday, 5,777 tests had been administered at the Aspen site and 2,777 were done in Basalt, according to Dave Ressler, CEO of Aspen Valley Hospital.
The change in the guidelines does not refer to the accuracy of positive results with Curative tests, only false negatives.
Local officials said in Thursday’s announcement that “out of an abundance of caution we are stepping away from the use of Curative tests for both symptomatic and asymptomatic testing” at the end of day Friday.
The efficacy of Curative testing has been in question in other communities around the country.
Dr. Brooke Allen of Roaring Fork Neurology, P.C. and Mountain Neurological Research Center administer the other COVID test being used locally.
She runs six sites that offer free tests to Roaring Fork Valley residents, averaging around 2,000 a week. Those are MicrogenDx saliva PCR tests, which detect all variants of the virus. Those tests have been cleared by the CDPHE and FDA.
Pitkin County Public Health and Aspen Valley Hospital officials recognize there is adequate testing for symptomatic tests in the community, and any additional capacity that may be needed can be absorbed through other PCR tests.
“As a variety of additional tests remain available in our community, we remain committed to ensure sufficient testing is available for broad community-based testing over the next several months,” Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock said.
He added that he does not think the test results will skew the county’s incidence or positivity rates.
“Locally, we have observed good correlation between Curative results and other test types,” Peacock said, “and while we might have detected more positive cases among asymptomatic individuals, it is unlikely this would have had a major impact on our two-week averages.”
Gov. Jared Polis has made a commitment to continue community-based testing as long as it is needed, and Pitkin County Public Health and AVH officials are awaiting further guidance from the state on other options for asymptomatic testing to fill the void.
The CDPHE purchased Curative tests and provides the tests to Pitkin County and the school district at no cost. The county’s public health team will continue to work with the district to identify testing options moving forward.
“We are disappointed that yet another change is occurring to a successful layer of mitigation efforts,” Baugh said. “However, we know that the testing is important for our students and staff, and thanks to an ongoing partnership with the Pitkin County health department we are hoping to have another platform for testing in place either next week or the week after at the latest.”
Pitkin County Public Health is communicating directly via email with those individuals who received a Curative test on or after Jan. 13 at one of the two sites used locally with follow-up guidance.
Health officials reiterated that with any COVID-19 test, there is always a chance for false negatives and that receiving a negative test result should not change people’s behavior. Public health officials continue to encourage everyone, regardless of their test result, to continue to maintain social distance, wear a mask in public, socialize only with your household, and follow all quarantine and isolation guidelines.