SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — The Utah Department of Health is now encouraging people to do their own contact tracing.
State epidemiologist Dr. Leisha Nolen said this is in response to the thousands of Utahns using at-home COVID testing kits, especially once the United States Postal Service starts shipping out the tests.
But there are drawbacks to this.
The federal government has promised to deliver a billion at-home COVID testing kits.
The United States Postal Service will be responsible for delivering millions of them.
When a Utahn takes the test, however, the Utah Department of Health is not asking them to report it.
“We already probably are very much underestimating how many cases there are in the state,” Dr. Nolen said. “We see these remarkably high numbers and unfortunately I think that is just a bit of it. I think it is actually quite a bit higher”
Nolen said this is because the Omicron variant is extraordinarily contagious and when someone is symptomatic they should assume they have it and start the quarantine process.
“We know that that makes it so that we are not going to detect every case,” said Nolen. “There’s a lot of people who have symptoms who are going to stay at home and isolate and not that get that test because it so likely they have COVID.”
Nolen says that Utah will be in the increasing stage of COVID cases, hospitalizations and deaths for at least a few more weeks.
The Utah Department of Health is asking Utahns to be responsible for their own contact tracing because of the mass resources it would take for the state to do it.
“That is just because goodness that is a huge amount of resources right,” said Nolen. “We’d have to call every single case and call all their contacts.”
The bad news with the at-home testing kits the USPS sends out is they, depending on what type, won’t be as reliable.
Also, they aren’t as official as the tests administered by the state or TestUtah.
“They probably won’t qualify for travel testing or treatments, so if you need treatment you will probably have to get an additional test,” said Nomi Health medical director Dr. June Steely.
Nolen said if a Utahn is showing symptoms of COVID, that doesn’t mean they necessarily need to get tested.
She said one of the most important data points to track is hospitalizations; not so much the number of cases.