Frustration growing over hours-long COVID-19 testing lines

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – With kids returning to the classroom, the Utah Department of Health admitted that it underestimated the demand for COVID-19 testing. This comes as many people reported waiting in line for hours to find out if they have the virus or not.

While long lines aren’t happening at every testing site, many Utahns who are forced to wait are getting frustrated.

“Once I got there, I didn’t think we would be sitting there for an hour,” Lily Robin says.  

Robin is one of many Utahns frustrated with the longer than normal wait times to get tested for COVID-19.

“I was a little surprised because I had an appointment and they had all these appointments online, so online it looked like they weren’t going to be booked up,” Robin continues.

Robin made an appointment, so that she could get tested during her lunch break.

“We almost had to leave to get back to our jobs in time, and then it would’ve been like a lot of wasted time in line and having to schedule it and come back in line again,” Robin shares.

She said there needs to be more transparency at testing sites, so people know roughly how long they’re going to have to wait for a test.  

“If they were able to tell us it would be an hour wait, we might’ve planned it differently or gone at a different time,” Robin explains.

“It seems like that convenience factor is maybe just shifting a bit,” Public Information Officer of the Utah County Health Department Aislynn Tolman-Hill says.

The Utah County Health Department said it is also getting harder for people to find same day appointments for COVID-19 testing.

“Sometimes we’re needing to send people quite long distances, sometimes within the same county, sometimes we are needing to send them to another county,” Aislynn Tolman-Hill said.

The State Health Department expected testing to go up as school returned, so it looked at how many tests were done three weeks prior, to figure out what number to prepare for.

“I think right now it’s just that we underestimated what the demand was going to be,” Public Information Officer of the Utah State Health Department Charla Haley continues. “We just thought we were predicting what the volume was going to be and we really underestimated what it turned out to be, so the reality slapped us in the face.”  

However, on Tuesday, the state tested over 12,000 people which is clearly more than they expected.

“We have enough testing sites… we just don’t necessarily have good enough staffing at those locations,” Haley shares. “I think it’s just a kind of perfect storm right now… where we just have all these things aligning with people demanding to get tested all of a sudden.”

Not only do they not have the staff, but they’re in the middle of transitioning some of their sites over to Test Utah.  

In the meantime, if you plan on getting tested, the department said you should expect a delay.

“Please be patient. We are working through this as fast as we can and are hoping to get it resolved as soon as we can,” Haley says hoping the delays will be gone next week.  

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