Wait times for Utah COVID-19 testing improve as promised

Coronavirus Updates

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Two weeks after people reported waiting in line for hours to get a COVID-19 test, the Utah Department of Health said the problems have been resolved.   

Brittany Brown the Deputy Director of COVID-testing for the Utah Department of Health said the longest wait times the department is seeing at community testing sites is 15 to 20 minutes. That’s compared to hours just a couple of weeks ago.

“We’ve added more staff, changed some of the process flows onsite to make sure it’s as efficient as it can be,” COO & Co-founder of Nomi Health Joshia Walker said.

In terms of wait times for test results, both Test Utah and The University of Utah reported having longer than normal wait times for PCR results to come back due to the volume of testing.

With Test Utah taking over most of the department’s testing sites, it decided to temporarily get rid of appointments and use a first come first serve approach.

“We felt it was better in order to set proper expectations and be able to adapt to the influx of people that were coming in,” Walker said.        

The transition allows the health department to focus its efforts on testing in schools.

“We’re looking at improving our contact tracing especially among minors,” Brown said.

The department is planning on using an automated system that will send a text message to minors for them to complete their contract tracing.  

“We’re also working with the State Board of Education to try and improve how we can assign positive test results to a school,” Brown said.

The hope is that this will speed up the reporting of cases in schools.

In the meantime, many are worried that local health departments are underreporting how many students are contracting the virus.

“If anyone is getting tested at a clinic or a pharmacy or community testing site, we will definitely know about those test results,” Brown said.

Brown said the only way the state wouldn’t know about a positive test result is if it was from an at-home test.

“We know that at-home testing is becoming more popular. People are buying the at-home tests at a pharmacy or grocery store to do their own test for multiple reasons. Either they don’t want to wait in a testing line, or maybe they don’t want the health department to know if they test positive so that’s a concern,” Brown said.        

While at-home test kits don’t report positive results back to the state, the department is looking into other home testing options.

“It would be some sort of model where ideally we could get good quality reporting to public health,” Brown said.  In terms of wait times for test results, both Test Utah and The University of Utah reported having longer than normal wait times for PCR results to come back due to the volume of testing.

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