NORTHERN UTAH (ABC4) -Since the beginning of the pandemic, more than 6.7 million COVID-19 tests have been taken in Utah. Currently, the state is increasing efforts to test Utahns as community spread worsens in different communities. One of those areas of concern is Weber and Morgan counties. Health officials explain why testing continues to be important to help end the pandemic.

The Utah Department of Health is increasing the number of COVID-19 community testing sites statewide, and one area of focus is the Weber-Morgan Health District.

“Some of their small areas, they have a positivity as high as 26.4 percent,” UDOH Deputy COVID-19 Testing Director Brittany Brown told ABC4. She explained that the state has 99 small areas that are monitored for different data including COVID-19 testing positivity rates to decide where to increase the number of testing sites. This week, she added, “Weber-Morgan Health District has four in the top 11.” As a whole, the WMHD has a positivity rate of nearly 16 percent.

“If we have a high positivity rate, that means that there’s a lot of community spread and there’s still a lot of positive cases out there that we are not getting tested,” explained Brown.

According to Brown, the state has had a positivity rate of around 11 percent for the last few months, while the national average is around five percent.

With high rates in certain areas in the two counties, UDOH has mobile test units targeting those areas. These sites are free to the public. The WMHD has also added additional testing sites to make sure there are ample opportunities for people in both counties to get tested.

“We’re happy to see the testing go up because that’s how we’re going to identify the individuals who have COVID,” WMHD Epidemiology Nurse Amy Carter told ABC4.

In September alone, the health department administered 20,460 tests across both counties. The most during any single month since the beginning of the pandemic. In October, the department administered another 15,809.

“The sooner you’re tested and know you have that potential infection, the sooner you can take those steps to prevent it and make sure you’re staying home the appropriate amount of time,” Amy Carter emphasized.

The department’s increased testing helped identify more than 4,000 new cases in October. The highest it had been since January.

With the holidays coming up, health officials expect cases to continue to rise. Testing will help prevent some of that spread. “Get tested before large family gatherings, indoors over the holidays,” said Brittany Brown. “Just to make sure you’re not unintentionally spreading the virus and getting your loved ones sick.”

Brown explained that if community spread continues to remain high, or even gets worse that “there’s still concern that, you know, that we might see new variants pop up unless we get the spread under control.”

Brown told ABC4 that Morgan County’s 14-day case rate is more than 1,000 cases per 100,000 people. In comparison, the state’s 14-day case rate is about 600 cases per 100,000 people. The goal, she said, is 200 cases per 100,000 people. That goal, she stated, is a conservative one.