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TestUtah.com draws national attention, aims to test everyone

Health care workers operate a drive-thru COVID-19 test center at the University of Utah Health’s Farmington Health Center in Farmington on Thursday, April 2, 2020. (PHOTO: Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — A Utah website that helps screen potential COVID-19 patients is getting praise for speeding up the testing process. The TestUtah.com program launched last Thursday, which directs users to answer a few background questions. The goal is to prioritize time slots at drive-thru testing locations and continue to monitor individuals who test positive.

Fast start

Despite only being up-and-running for a few days, the site is already performing over 50,000 individual online assessments. In addition to that staggering number, the Deseret News says it’s referred over 2,600 respondents for testing and returned nearly 800 completed tests.

One of the biggest obstacles and hurdles we’ve had to overcome is the lack of testing. – Utah Governor Gary Herbert remarked last week.

The effort is being led by Utah tech advocacy group Silicon Slopes, in partnership with the Utah Health Department, the state’s COVID-19 Task Force and Utah health care providers. Their mantra is the faster the state can assess and test everyone who needs it, the faster Utah can move to the recovery phase of the pandemic.

Setting goals

Leaders say the near-term goal is getting everyone in the state to do the online assessment. They also hope to be deploying enough testing sites throughout the state to test 3,000 residents per day.

“This really tracks back to the Silicon Slopes community recognizing that we needed to bring our collective skill set to bear on COVID-19,” says Silicon Slopes Executive Director Clint Betts. “We got the ball rolling on the assessment website, supply chain issues and reached out to Gov. (Gary) Herbert, Lt. Gov. (Spencer) Cox, the health department and health care providers … and it’s been this amazing collaboration that’s brought us to this point.”

Right now, there are two drive-thru testing centers in Utah County. State leaders say two or three more are likely to come online in the coming week. Overall, the goal is to have ten to fifteen testing centers functioning throughout the state. According to Betts, each site will have the capacity to collect 300 to 500 tests per day. Additionally, because of their partnership with Co-Diagnostics, they will be able to process tests and return results within a day or two.

Now, other states are taking notice. According to Betts, governors from around the country want to know how they can launch similar public-private partnerships.

“We’re getting a lot of inquiries, including from some of our biggest states, asking us how we can help them replicate the TestUtah.com model,” he explains. “What we’re doing here is really unique [and] the key to it all has been an amazing collaboration.”