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Ice vests are helping COVID-19 testers beat the heat

Posted at 11:50 AM, Jul 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-31 13:55:32-04

FARMINGTON, Utah — With temperatures expected to reach triple digits on Friday and for the next several days, there are concerns and warnings for those working outside.

That includes the medical professionals who are testing for COVID-19 at drive up locations in Salt Lake and Davis Counties.

University of Utah Health is helping the testers beat the heat.

One thing they’ve come up with are ice vests which help cool the body’s core temperature.

Even under a shade tent, testers are dealing with these extreme temperatures while wearing personal protective equipment, including a face shield and helmet.

It gets very hot, very quickly.

“With this heat, obviously the body quickly can react to that and dehydration can set in and obviously we have concerns with that,” said Jerry North, Sr. Director of Facilities, Univ. of Utah Health. “We don’t want them, the people that are doing this work, we don’t want them to be patients in the hospital when we need to be making sure we help and that we’re taking care of the community.”

Besides the ice vests, there’s also a cooling station where workers can literally chill out after their shift of testing for the coronavirus.

Those shifts are being limited to an hour or less to ensure those workers don’t suffer dehydration.

“It’s not enough to just go stand in the shade for a minute, that’s going to take your body temperature down just a couple of degrees,” said Sr. Nursing Director for Community Clinics, Nikki Gilmore. “You really have to go get in front of some AC, get some ice to really get your body temperature down enough to be prepared to go back out there.”

Gilmore said they had to come up with some of these novel ways to help the testers stay cool because having fans blowing around what could be contaminated air was not an option.

Testers also have water and electrolytes to make sure they stay hydrated.

This has all been a work in progress, evolving from mid-March when the days were cool. Planners are already looking ahead to keeping the testers warm when the temperatures drop and the snow begins to fly.