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Utah begins dramatic increase in COVID-19 testing

Posted at 5:53 PM, Nov 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-10 23:43:26-05

SALT LAKE CITY — This week, Utah begins to drastically ramp up testing to get the skyrocketing surge of COVID-19 under control.

Across the state, Utah National Guard soldiers and airmen administer 1,700 COVID-19 tests each day in Utah.

“We’ve ramped up quite a bit,” said Major Daniel Wheatly.

Currently, 300 soldiers and airmen help with testing, contact tracing and PPE distribution from Logan to St. George. After Governor Herbert’s declaration on Sunday, they’re waiting for the next assignment.

RELATED STORY: Utah's new COVID-19 restrictions are now in effect

“We think it is going to have us scale up our capabilities,” said Major Wheatly.

University of Utah Health is also expanding testing capabilities. On Wednesday, four drive-through sites will be replaced by 12 indoor clinics along the Wasatch Front.

“The cold weather has slowed us down. Our staff's fingers get cold and frozen and they can’t move as quickly and they have to take a little bit of time to warm up,” said University of Utah Health Senior Nursing Director of Ambulatory Health Nikki Gilmore.

University of Utah Health expects to continue testing 1,500 people a day but will have the space to test more. They will still operate the site at Rice-Eccles Stadium to be close to the university’s main campus.

“It will be ramped up and it needs to be done in a systematic way,” said State of Utah Senate President Stuart Adams.

On Tuesday, Weber State University practiced the first test run on campus-wide testing. Governor Herbert wants college students to be tested once a week. Weber State plans to begin testing 7,000 students beginning Wednesday.

“I know the other schools really want to get things in place, just like we are to test our population before Thanksgiving so that as folks disperse they can know if they are carrying or not so they can be safe around families,” said Weber State University President Brad Mortensen.

The CDC has committed one-million rapid tests and PPE for rapid testing on Utah’s college campuses.