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State pushing for more Utahns to get tested for COVID-19

By Matt Rascon, KSL TV | Posted - Apr. 15, 2020 at 8:25 a.m.

SALT LAKE CITY — State health officials continued their plea for people with mild symptoms of the novel coronavirus to be tested as the rate of confirmed cases and the number of tests administered decreases.

“We don’t know if the prevalence is indeed decreasing,” said Dr. Richard Orlandi, chief medical officer at Ambulatory Health at the University of Utah. “The decrease in testing has been a bit of a head-scratcher.”

From the beginning health officials in the state and across the country have identified fever, cough and shortness of breath as the symptoms most associated with COVID-19. In the early stages of its spread in Utah, state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn told Utahns to largely stay home if they exhibited those symptoms due to a lack of testing capabilities.

“Our testing capacity increased drastically, so we changed our message,” Dunn said in Tuesday’s daily COVID-19 press conference.

Dunn also announced the state had tested more than 46,476 people — just 689 more than Monday. That’s well below the state’s ability to test thousands a day.

In response to fewer people heading to the drive-through testing sites, Dunn added three more symptoms to the list: sore throat, muscle aches or a decreased sense of taste or smell. Any one of those symptoms, even a mild form, was enough for anyone to get tested.

“It is crucial for us to understand everybody who has COVID-19, no matter how mild the symptoms,” Dunn said. “And now we have capacity.”

“It’s really a lifesaving move if we can identify people earlier and isolate them to be able to prevent the spread of this disease,” Orlandi said.

Orlandi said the classic definition of a fever is 100.4 degrees. But he said even if you have a temperature of 100 degrees to get tested. And the same goes for a new or worsening cough.

“If it’s more than just that casual throat-clearing cough. If it’s ongoing for a day or two or it’s worsening, we certainly would want to get that person tested,” he said.

KSL NewsRadio’s Dave Noriega was tested Tuesday. He was one of a handful of people that selected to get testing without symptoms. But as a state, officials said we are not to the point where anyone should just head to the testing tents.

“It risks a false sense of security if we test people too early and they’re negative and then a couple of days later become positive. We want to prevent that,” Orlandi said.

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