Scott G Winterton, KSL

COVID testing is more accessible, more comfortable and maybe more important than ever

By Ryan Miller, KSL.com | Posted - Oct. 12, 2020 at 8:58 p.m.



SALT LAKE CITY — On Sunday, the state reported a record 254 people were currently hospitalized with COVID-19. On Monday, it reported a record positivity rate.

To say the obvious, things could be going better in the state’s fight to combat the novel coronavirus.

“Our health care workers are tired, they're suffering, and they don't want to see another person die alone, of a preventable infection," Dr. Emily Spivak, an associate professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Utah Health, said last week.

To date, Utah’s death rate has remained among the lowest in the nation at 0.6% — a number that is more impressive when compared to states with about the same number of cases. Neighboring Nevada has had about as many cases as Utah has had but over 1,000 more deaths.

The worry, though, is as hospitals fill up — University of Utah Health says it is right at 100% capacity — those deaths will start to go up. So limiting the spread is pretty important.

The state is preparing contingency plans for when (or, optimistically, if) hospitals get overwhelmed. Those include expanding the number of ICU beds, load-leveling among hospitals (the number of ICU beds occupied sit around 65%), and even creating a makeshift hospital at the Mountain America Expo Center in Sandy.

So what can Utahns do to help out? You might be sick of the same advice by now: wear a mask, social distance, and get tested if you have symptoms.

"With testing, we have data to help Utahns make informed decisions to keep their families safe and help policymakers make decisions about activity levels, masking, etc,” Utah Department of Health deputy director Nate Checketts said in August. ‘If we can stop the spread, we can control the pandemic and keep our economy open. Testing is key to how we do this.”

That was said back in the middle of August — it may be even more crucial now as COVID numbers continue to hit record highs. On Monday, the Utah Department of Health reported 988 new cases and new 4,360 new tests — a new record 22.7% positivity rate. The rolling 7-day average of positive laboratory tests is now 13.9%.

Regular testing can keep schools open by isolating infected students and not letting the virus to spread widely among the school. It can keep the businesses running by having infected people not openly out in the community. It’s how Utah keeps going forward in the recovery and not moving back to a more restricted area (as the Orem and Provo have recently had to endure).

This is why reports that people have chosen to not be tested when experiencing symptoms to avoid the isolation and quarantine periods have been troubling for health officials Especially since getting tested is easier now than ever. Not to mention more comfortable as medical centers have transitioned from the nasal swab to a saliva test.

In a collaboration between the University of Utah Health and the University of Utah, a new testing site opened at Rice-Eccles Stadium Monday. The site will be open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. - 4 p.m. The Salt Lake County Health Department also announced Monday that it would be doing testing three times a week (Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3-6 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.) for the remainder of the month at the Maverik Center.

Those are in addition to the dozens of testing centers throughout the state. So where and how do you get tested? Here’s a list of the major medical providers in the state. For a complete list go to Utah's Coronavirus response website.

University of Utah Health

Testing sites: South Jordan Health Center, Farmington Health Center, Redwood Health Center, Redstone Health Center, Rice-Eccles Stadium.

Type of test: Saliva

Note: Appointments are required. To schedule an appointment go to the University of Utah Health website.

Intermountain Healthcare

Testing sites: American Fork Hospital, Alta View InstaCare, Bear River Clinic, Cassia Regional Hospital, Cedar City Insta care, Cottonwood InstaCare, Ephraim Clinic, Fillmore Clinic, Garfield Memorial Hospital, Heber InstaCare, Layton Clinic, North Cache Valley InstaCare, North Ogden InstaCare, Intermountain North Temple Clinic, Park City Hospital, St. George Testing Site (400 E Campus), Salt Lake InstaCare, Saratoga Springs InstaCare, Sevier Valley Clinic, Southridge InstaCare, Taylorsville InstaCare, Tooele InstaCare, White Sage Family Medicine Clinic

Type of test: Saliva

Note: Before going to a testing center, call the Intermountain COVID-19 Hotline at 844-442-5224.

Steward Healthcare

Testing sites: Davis Hospital and Medical Center, Mountain Point Medical Center, Jordan Valley Medical Center

Note: Patients will need a doctor’s referral in order to be tested.

How much does it cost?

The vast majority of people will not have to pay to be tested if they are experiencing symptoms.

For those with health insurance: The Families First Coronavirus Response Act ensures a test is covered if you have health insurance and have a medical reason to be tested.

For those who are uninsured: If you are a U.S. and Utah resident you should qualify for testing coverage through Medicaid. To apply go to https://medicaid.utah.gov. If you do not qualify for the Medicaid option, you can find a location that provides free testing by calling the Utah Coronavirus Hotline at 1-800-456-7707 or use the chat feature on the coronavirus.utah.gov website.

For a non-medical test: If you are testing for a non-medical reason (employment, travel), you might be charged for a test.

Ryan Miller

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