WASHINGTON TERRACE — Since installing a drive-through coronavirus testing site on the grounds of Ogden Regional Medical Center, the hospital has seen an uptick in traffic.
“It’s pretty steady through the morning,” though autos seem to trickle in at all times of the day, said Craig Bielik, spokesman for the Washington Terrace hospital.
As kits becomes more and more available, health officials are pushing for increased coronavirus testing at places like Ogden Regional and other drive-through sites scattered around the state. It’s key in pinning down the prevalence of the ailment and figuring out if efforts to stop its spread are working. Pinpointing additional cases also allows health officials to do more contact tracing to track down others who may have been infected, further aiding in getting a handle on things.
“Let me just put out a message that the capacity is out there,” said Weber-Morgan Health Department Executive Director Brian Bennion.
As coronavirus has spread, testing has at times been in short supply. But more and more kits are now available, and Bennion said the state has the capacity to handle perhaps 6,000 of them a day.
By comparison, the Utah Department of Health coronavirus website says 4,609 tests were completed on April 20, the biggest daily number so far in Utah. The biggest daily test count in Weber and Morgan counties was also on April 20, when Weber-Morgan Health Department records show there were 379.
Petronella Adomako, an infectious disease physician at McKay-Dee Hospital in Ogden, said increased testing helps identify those whose symptoms aren’t as obvious and might otherwise go undetected. Leaving such cases unaddressed can result in even more infections, exactly what health officials and leaders don’t want.
“Basically, it’s to prevent the spread,” Adomako said.
The six coronavirus symptoms pinpointed by health officials are fever, cough, difficulty breathing, muscle aches and chills, sore throat, and decreased sense of smell or taste.
Having more data also helps leaders and health officials in making decisions on the sort of guidelines and restrictions needed to curb coronavirus’ spread, said Tracy Bertagnole, Ogden Regional’s chief operating officer. Moreover, she said, if someone knows they have COVID-19 “you can begin self-isolation as soon as possible to protect others.”
The testing facility at Ogden Regional went up about two weeks ago as testing capacity has increased, Bielik said. It’s a joint initiative between the hospital, owned by MountainStar, and TestUtah, a new public-private effort involving firms affiliated with Silicon Slopes and the state. TestUtah is also aiding in operation of drive-through testing locations in Provo, Orem, St. George and elsewhere, and as of last Tuesday had helped administer 11,200 tests.
Ogden Regional “provides the staff for the testing, and Silicon Slopes and the state of Utah provide the website screening, test kits, notification to people being tested and everything else needed to perform the test,” said Bertagnole.
In Weber County, the North Ogden Clinic, operated by Intermountain Healthcare, is also offering drive-through testing. Brad Gillman, Intermountain Healthcare spokesman, said anybody with just one of the six symptoms associated with coronavirus can get testing. The cost will be covered by funding allocated in the federal CARES Act, the $2 trillion measure meant to help combat the economic impacts of coronavirus brought on by the restrictions in movement meant to halt its spread.
Layton is home to three sites that provide coronavirus testing, according to the Utah Department of Health. They are the Layton Clinic, Davis Hospital and Medical Center, and Tanner Clinic. Farmington Health Center in southern Davis County also handles testing.
Generally, those with milder symptoms should use drive-through facilities, Gillman said, while hospitals and hospital emergency rooms can handle more serious cases. The Utah Department of Health’s coronavirus website at coronavirus.utah.gov/testing-locations contains more details on testing and testing sites and links to available resources. Intermountain Healthcare also offers more information online at intermountainhealthcare.org/covid19-coronavirus/get-testing.
After May 1, Weber, Davis and Morgan counties are planning to ease some of the restrictions in place to help stop the spread of coronavirus, allowing some shuttered businesses to reopen. Measures put in place thus far, officials say, have helped curtail the spread of coronavirus. As more businesses open and people emerge from isolation, increased testing will help track cases to guard against another coronavirus wave — or at least keep the intensity of any recurrence in check.