Drive-thru coronavirus testing focusing on minority groups with high positive rates

By Alex Cabrero, KSL TV | Posted - May 21, 2020 at 7:07 p.m.

SALT LAKE CITY — The state has identified Utah’s Pacific Islander community as one of the most severely impacted by COVID-19. That’s why a mobile testing van was sent to a neighborhood where many Pacific Islanders live on Wednesday.

Trust can go a long way, which is why Kathy Matthew decided to be the first person people saw when they decided to do something so personal.

“It’s really important for us to get tested,” Matthew said.

Matthew is with the Utah Pacific Islander Health Coalition.

Wednesday morning, she teamed up with the Utah Wellness Bus to get more people tested.

For some, the test is uncomfortable, but she felt it’s important.

“I see how some of the kids come in and they get tested,” said Matthew. “It breaks my heart, but it’s something we need to do to keep our families safe.”

That has been harder for Pacific Islander families.

According to the Utah Department of Health, Polynesians have the highest positive rate for coronavirus in Salt Lake County among minority groups.

Pacific Islanders also have the second-highest positive rate statewide.

Matthew said it’s probably because of how close-knit families are in her culture.

“Because in our homes, we can have eleven people living in our homes because that’s how we are. We take care of our family,” said Matthew.

That’s one reason why the Utah Wellness Bus, a sort of mobile healthcare clinic, set up in the Glendale community outside the Sorenson Unity Center on Wednesday.

It’s a place many in the Polynesian community, as well as other minority groups, know and trust.

“A lot of them aren’t coming out for testing. Maybe they feel more comfortable coming here. We try to make it a relaxed environment,” said Nancy Ortiz, program manager for the Utah Wellness Bus.

As drivers pulled up to the Wellness Bus, there was a sign asking them to keep their windows closed.

A worker, most often Matthew, then showed the driver a phone number.

If the driver has a phone, they then call that number.

That’s how Matthew can talk to the driver without any risk of transmitting the disease.

After answering a few questions, Matthew can determine the next steps for the driver and anyone else in the car.

“Testing is a great way to control the spread of this disease to know if we’re positive or not so we’re not unintentionally infecting people,” said Brittney Okada, who works with the Utah Department of Health and was at the drive-thru testing site.

However, it all started with trust.

Which is why Matthew liked to be the first person people saw because she could let them know it’s okay.

“It’s so easy and it’s free,” said Matthew. “It’s confidential. We won’t be blasting you on Facebook or anything that you tested today. Everything is confidential.”

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