Huge boom in COVID-19 testing need in Utah creating long lines

The line to get tested for COVID-19 was over an hour long Wednesday at the Utah Department of Health's testing site in Lehi. (Dan Rascon, KSL-TV)



LEHI — There were some very long lines for the thousands of people trying to get a COVID-19 test Wednesday. Some waited an hour or two or even more.

"We've been here about an hour," said Chad Ewell, who was in line with his family to be tested at a site in Lehi. He said in that hour he only moved about 12 car lengths and looked to have about another hour to go.

"We actually drove by and we were like, 'Why are all these people sitting in their cars?' We had no idea what is was for. And then we are like, 'Oh, that line is for us,'" said Kacee Ewell, Chad's wife.

The family says their 6-year-old daughter, who has Down syndrome, was diagnosed with COVID-19. They are all now having to get tested.

"She's got a sore throat, she's got aching muscles. Lots of whining and crying," Chad Ewell said.

"My 11-year-old is symptomatic for COVID today," Melanie Belcher said as she waited in line for more than an hour. At that point, she was only about halfway there. "Not loving it. Definitely longer than I was hoping. Exasperated is probably the best word for it."

The testing site at Thanksgiving Point is just one of the dozens of COVID-19 testing sites across the Wasatch Front that has seen a huge boom in the last week. According to the Utah Department of Health, they have seen nearly double the numbers they had last week.

"Just didn't figure to see such a huge demand all at once. I mean just like, bam," spokeswoman Charla Haley said. She said last Tuesday there were about 7,500 people tested. This Tuesday, nearly 13,000 showed up to be tested. "Just kind of a perfect storm right now."

Haley said on Monday they transitioned their state-run testing sites to a new team called Test Utah. But they never expected these kinds of numbers.

"It's no one's fault. It's just we transitioned to a different team doing the testing at these different locations, and we weren't ready, we just weren't ready," she said. "Our estimates were off."

Haley said it's not a supply issue, but rather a shortage of staff.

"I think a lot of it is being driven by people who are feeling ill. But a lot of it might be driven by people going back to school," Haley said. "I know people are being inconvenienced, and they're probably really upset that they're waiting in lines a long time. We ask for patience. We are working to fix it and to get more people out there."

Cary Boone Jones said she waited about 2½ hours from start to finish.

"I'm feeling pretty ill and then to wait in a car for two-plus hours, I'd rather be in bed," she said.

But she is not blaming anyone. "It was frustrating, but there is nothing these people can do."

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Dan Rascon

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