‘We’re making some headway’; State ramps up coronavirus testing, launches survey for residents

The drive-thru coronavirus testing set up at the River Road InstaCare in St. George, Utah, on April 2, 2020. | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Testing for the coronavirus is increasing both statewide and locally with drive-up testing sites in full operation in St. George and Cedar City and the announcement of a statewide online health survey to determine where testing is most needed.

The drive-thru coronavirus testing set up at the River Road InstaCare in St. George, Utah, on April 2, 2020. | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

At the same time, the number of new coronavirus cases in Southern Utah and across the state showed signs of slowing, drawing optimism from Utah’s governor and caution from the epidemiologist heading the state’s response against the virus.

Gov. Gary Herbert announced what he called a breakthrough testing partnership with Utah’s tech community to create a statewide survey designed to determine where additional test sites need to be set up, who needs to be tested and data points for where the hot spots of the virus might be.

The “Crush the Curve” survey, accessible now to every state resident at testutah.com, will have a bearing on where additional mobile testing sites are placed in Southern Utah as the data obtained will give a snapshot of where the people most at risk are in the state and also help find those who may need to be tested but don’t realize it yet.

“This will help us accelerate testing in Utah,” Herbert said. “We tend to get bogged down in statistics. This will be about people. This will drive people to get an assessment of their own health.”

Herbert said the data will only be shared with state and federal health departments.

A screenshot of the “Crush the Curve” statewide health survey set up at testutah.com. | Screenshot, St. George News

The survey, which takes between two to five minutes to complete, asks questions pertaining to the preconditions one may have as well as contact a person has had with a person exhibiting coronavirus symptoms.

“It’s hard to make decisions without good data,” said Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, who was tasked by Herbert to spearhead the public-private effort. “This helps citizens know if you need to be tested. The second piece is it will give our health department important data of where this is happening.”

Locally, Intermountain Healthcare has established drive-through testing sites at InstaCare locations in Cedar City and St. George. The sites are providing testing with or without health insurance and a doctor’s order is not required.

According to Intermountain spokesperson Dave Green, thus far, 40-80 tests have been provided per day at the Cedar City site – located at 962 Sage Dr. – and 120-140 a day at the River Road InstaCare drive-through –  at 577 S. River Road – in St. George.

A motorist comes up to an Intermountain Healthcare drive-thru coronavirus testing site in an undisclosed location. Undated photo | Photo courtesy Intermountain Medical

Rebekah Couper-Noles, vice president of operations for Intermountain Medical Group, advises that people still should make sure they have reason to be tested before going by using Intermountain’s online symptom checker or calling the Intermountain COVID-19 Hotline at 844-442-5224.

“By calling ahead, a medical professional can assess your symptoms over the phone and determine if you should be tested for COVID-19,” Couper-Noles said. “Calling ahead is not required for testing but is highly recommend to save you time and help our team of caregivers prepare for your visit.”

Latest case numbers

There were four more positive COVID-19 tests reported in Southern Utah by the Southwest Utah Public Health Department Thursday – around a 40% reduction compared to the last few reports.  Iron County had two new cases, with one new case in Washington County and one new positive test in a non-resident.

The Utah Department of Health released the first statistics describing how many people are being hospitalized for the virus in each area. According to the state, there are now seven people hospitalized in Southern Utah for COVID-19.

The state as a whole reported just 62 new cases Thursday for a total of 1,074 – also a sharp reduction compared to previous days.

The new numbers were cause for optimism for Utah’s governor.

The numbers are encouraging,” Herbert said. “We’re making some headway.”

However, state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn was more tempered, saying there were also fewer test results reported over the last 24 hours.

We are cautious about trying to draw too much from this,” she said. 

Down south, Mesquite Mayor Al Littman reported the second resident in the nearby Nevada city to be tested positive for COVID-19.

Need for masks?

On Thursday, Dunn addressed the growing discussion on the federal level of whether those who do not have the virus should still wear masks while out in public in places that remain open like supermarkets.

A sales clerk at a pharmacy rings up a purchase of face masks as fears of the coronavirus continues, Friday, Jan 24, 2020 in Chicago. | Photo by Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune via Associated Press, St. George News

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said evidence is growing that those who are not showing symptoms but still have the virus can spread the disease.

However, Dunn said the best prevention is still social distancing by keeping a six-foot distance between others or just staying home.

“Social distancing is the best way to be exposed to as few people as possible,” Dunn said. “There are some discussions federally, but there are shortages of masks. It’s best not to have a false sense of security.”

Additional measures may be coming to St. George Airport

Herbert said adding additional checkpoints at the state’s airports is under review, and he mentioned St. George Regional Airport by name.

“We’re looking at checkpoints in some reasonable and rational way,” he said.

COVID-19 information resources

Southern Utah coronavirus count

Positive COVID-19 tests: 37, including 1 death and 9 recoveries.

  • Washington County: 19
  • Iron County: 9
  • Garfield County: 1
  • Kane County: 1
  • Beaver County: 0
  • Visitors: 7

Hospitalized: 7

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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