When it was announced earlier this month that the massive Pepsi Center COVID testing site that has been used by Coloradans throughout the Metro Denver region would be shut down on September 30th, the director of Denver Department of Public Health and Environment (DDPHE) Robert McDonald stated that “With that (building out community testing) accomplished, the city can focus its testing resources where they are most effective, at a community level in highly impacted and underserved neighborhoods”
While there are several metrics that DDPHE is considering to build out these more community based testing sites, accessibility by other modes of transportation beyond just motor vehicles. To build on the success that the Pepsi Center testing site has garnished over the past five months, future testing site locations should be modeled on its successes and informed by its shortcomings.
The Pepsi Center site had a couple of built in advantages to accessibility. It has a light rail station that stops only a few yards from the parking lot used to administer tests. This provides the advantage of allowing those that are unable to have access to a car or bike the ability to get tested at the facility. From a bicyclists perspective, the Pepsi Center is between two of the larger trails in Denver, the South Platte River Trail and the Cherry Creek Trail, and can be reached fairly easily from either of them.
The biggest shortcoming of the Pepsi Center site from an alternative transportation was its messaging. While cyclists and walk-ups were allowed, DDPHE qualifies this in their testing statement, stating that “However, due to the fact that the testing facility is intended for those experiencing symptoms, we hope to limit walk-ins at the site as they may risk exposing other”. This is in contrast to other cities throughout the United States, such as New Orleans, which is testing cyclists for COVID in their drive thru testing literature.
While DDPHE is correct in making COVID testing sites equitable by placing them in neighborhoods that have been historically underserved on several metrics, making these sites accessible to all, including pedestrians and cyclists, is also an important factor in fighting the spread of COVID-19.