Universal testing for virus
still a long way off
By Doug Lowe
It has been more than a month now since President Donald Trump held a press conference, surrounded by the leaders of giant retail stores and medical companies, to announce a partnership to initiate coronavirus testing across our nation.
“We’ve been working very hard on this,” the president said. “When you compare what we’ve done to other areas of the world it’s pretty incredible.”
Last Monday April 13, David Amata visited a testing tent that had been set up outside the IHC family-practice clinic in Ephraim. He had awakened with enough symptoms to get a doctor’s referral for testing.
“Getting the testing referral for testing was actually kind of difficult,” he says.
Since his primary care physician wasn’t available, Amata visited the state coronavirus website, called a couple of the phone numbers and finally spoke with someone who confirmed his eligibility for testing. He drove to the testing tent, parked inside, and called to let the staff inside know he was there.
“The wait was a bit long,” reports Amata. But he says he didn’t mind because he figured the person inside had to put on a bunch of protective gear before administering the test.
“When they put that long, Q-tip kind of swab up my nose and into my sinus cavity, it definitely felt uncomfortable,” he says.
Following the instructions he received after being tested, Amata is now self-quarantined at home, with his wife, Melina, and their two children, 11 year-old Joshua and 9 year-old Zoey, as he waits for the test results.
In the southern end of Sanpete County, a similar testing program is available at Gunnison Valley Hospital. As in Ephraim, a physician’s referral is required, and the patient must make arrangements in advance.
IHC officials contacted by the Messenger did not answer questions about how many people have been tested at the Ephraim site and the average number tested each day. Similarly, the Central Utah Public Health Department (UCPHD) did not answer questions about how many Sanpete County residents have been tested so far.
The Health Department website, centralutahpublichealth.org, simply shows at aggregate number of tests conducted in the six Utah counties served by the department, which was 601 at the beginning of this week.
The massive, nationwide testing promised at the White House press conference has been slow in materializing. In most cases, the promised public-private partnerships have failed to materialize.
Utah health officials say the state has the capacity to test about 4,500 people per day. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert has said he wants to get the daily testing total up to 7,000, and he recently relaxed the rationing of COVID-19 tests by adding symptoms to the initial list needed to qualify. A patient now has to have some, but not all, symptoms on the list.
According to the Utah State Health Department coronavirus website, 46,476 Utahns have been tested. That translates to 14.5 per 1,000. In the nation as a whole, the Centers for Disease Control estimates 290,000 people have been tested which translates to 8.8 per 1,000.
The state’s recently announced partnership with the TestUtah Program (visit http://www.testutah.com), a project of the nonprofit Silicon Slopes and other organizations, promises to greatly expand testing.
The ultimate goal of the program is to make COVID-19 tests available to everyone.
Epidemiologists have said if we want life to return to normal, we must be able to test everyone before they go back to school or work or simply stop social distancing.
Given how the novel coronavirus can be carried and spread by those who don’t even know they have it, universal testing seems to be the only logical goal.