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Here's how to avoid Utah's long COVID testing lines

Posted at 3:25 PM, Jan 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-03 23:56:00-05

SALT LAKE CITY — The only thing matching this week's rise in COVID-19 cases in Utah are the long lines forming outside testing centers around the state.

READ: Utah issues new COVID-19 isolation and quarantine guidelines

On Monday, videos showed massive lines winding for nearly a mile at several sites as people patiently waited to be tested to learn whether they are infected with the virus propelled by the omicron variant.

Utah reported over 14,754 cases Monday in data collected over a four-day period. While no single-day case records were set, Thursday came close with 4,659 new cases.

With more people wanting to get tested, FOX 13 witnessed a long line at the Draper Senior Center; while a viewer sent in video showing another hours-long wait outside the Timpanogos Regional Medical Center in Orem.

No doubt, the lines can be exasperating for residents, but there are other options and ways to get results quickly and without a wait.

Video below shared by Paige Hamblin shows a long line at an Orem COVID testing site

Orem Testing

First, people looking to get tested should avoid the bigger testing sites and head to some of the smaller locations which can be found here.

"It's really hit and miss depending on location today," said Tom Hudachko with the Utah Department of Health. "Our West Valley City site has about 1-hour waits, while Kearns, just a couple miles away, is less than 15 minutes."

Another way to get in-and-out of a testing site in a short period of time is to go online and reserve a spot at a pharmacy or healthcare provider not affiliated with the state. Online reservations can easily be made in advance and residents simply need to show up at the designated time and be tested.

The state provides a list showing all testing locations, with nearly all providing free testing that allows residents to get results within 24 hours.

“We got here at nine. We got out of here by 11:30 or twelve. We had our results by 1:30,” said Ryan Jensen.

Nomi Health, the company that offers testing through TestUtah, reported a record number of testing Monday.

“We’re asking the public to please be patient, treat staff kindly knowing it’s a big surge in testing needs and we’re working to service everyone,” said a spokesperson with Nomi Health.

Despite the demand, TestUtah results are still turning around within an average of 24 hours.

The City of Draper had to even close the left turn westbound from Pioneer Road to 1130 East due to high volume of traffic lining up.

“To go out of your way and wait a couple hours in line, it sucks, but if it protects somebody you care and love it’s worth it,” said Jensen.

Brittany Brown, the COVID-19 testing deputy director with the Utah Department of Health, said having enough staff to meet the demand is the state’s biggest concern right now.

“We’ve been trying to monitor the wait times and shift staff between the less-busy sites, maybe go help out at a busier site when there’s more cars in line,” she said.

She said once the state heard of the omicron variant’s impact on other countries, they started prepping to make sure test sites were ready when the new variant hit here.

“We’ve also started handing out home test kits once the line gets longer than an hour,” said Brown.

Intermountain Healthcare offers self-serve saliva testing. You can also schedule an appointment with the University of Utah Health centers.

“That sort of takes the line out of the equation,” said Michael Bronson, senior director for community clinics. “You’ll get an appointment for a time where we have the resources to help you and the waiting will be very minimal.”

Bronson said the University of Utah Health centers have seen a 20% increase in volume of patients getting a test. More specifically, people with symptoms of upper respiratory viruses have been stopping in at their urgent cares to get a test.

“More volume in our urgent cares especially over the last two weeks than we’ve ever seen in the last two years we’ve been in the pandemic,” said Bronson.