ALL NEWS

State audit finds problems with Utah response to COVID-19 pandemic

Oct 1, 2020, 5:33 AM | Updated: 8:13 am
Utah COVID-19 response...
FILE -- People gather for a press conference in the Emergency Operations Center at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Thursday, March 12, 2020, where officials discussed the spread of COVID-19. Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY – State auditor John Dougall released a report Wednesday showing several problems with the Utah response to COVID-19

The audit found Utah did not prepare for a pandemic like it has done for other emergencies such as earthquakes. 

Auditor Dougall acknowledges that it would be impossible to prepare specifically for a COVID-19 pandemic. However, he argued more could have been done. 

“Especially given the fact that we’ve had certain warning signs: MERS, SARS, Zika, Ebola, [and] swine flu, different things that could have turned into a pandemic. There was a report in 2007 raising concerns to the governor at the time of PPE constraints in a pandemic,” Dougall said in an interview with KSL NewsRadio. 

Another area of concern was the failure to set up a Unified Command of the Department of Health and the Department of Public Safety before March. 

“As a result…not everyone was necessarily pulling in the same direction,” Dougall said. “There was lots of hurdles in the early stages of getting folks generally going in a unified path of how to approach and tackle this pandemic.” 

As for Utah’s controversial $800,000 order of hydroxychloroquine, Dougall did not find that the state was overcharged, as pharmacists and others noted prices were higher for the drug due to increased demand. He was also not surprised that Utah wanted a stockpile of a potential life-saving medication.

However, it’s unclear just who ordered it when and who had the authority to do so. 

Dougall noted that there were disagreements among senior health department officials about buying an unproven treatment, and he feels more voices in the room would have helped Governor Gary Herbert make a better decision. 

“There was a miscommunication about going about [getting] it, who was really authorizing it, and this is one of those circumstances where, clearly, medical professionals had a disagreement. We think it would have been good for a more robust debate about the merits and drawbacks of hydroxychloroquine,” Dougall said. 

Another area where Utah fell down, according to the auditors, was in how it paid Test Utah for widespread COVID-19 testing. 

Dougall said the state contacted several places to see if they could perform large-scale testing before choosing the Silicon Slopes initiative. 

Nomi Health, who spearheaded the initiative, was paid a flat fee of $7.6 million in anticipation of performing 3,000 tests a day. But the number of tests administered remained far below expectations, raising the price from $44 a test to $235 a test. 

“The state didn’t have a good strategy to ramp up testing, get enough people to get in to get that testing. And, so, the actual cost for the test was well above market,” Dougall said. 

Utah ended up extending the contract as testing went up, eventually getting a lower cost contract.

Utah was also criticized for how it handled the Healthy Together app, an app that was intended to do contact tracing. 

Dougall said Utahns are not naturally inclined to like tracking apps, so there was little buy-in from the public. 

The app itself began malfunctioning. 

Auditors also found that the state was in such a rush to get the app out, it most likely overlooked other alternatives that could have been cheaper and/or more reliable. 

The Governor’s Office responded to the report, agreeing that better communication was needed and that the Unified Command should have been put together sooner. 

Chief of Staff Justin Harding also pushed back on the lack of PPE, arguing that states have limited funds and must use them wisely. 

He also pushed back on criticism that Governor Herbert and Lt. Governor Spencer Cox had too close a relationship with Silicon Slopes companies, and whether that led to several no-bid contracts. 

“We want to be clear that any such relationships did not influence the award of contracts. The review of which contract should be awarded to which entities was performed by staff members who exercised independent judgment in making recommendations about contract awards,” Hardin wrote.

     

 

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Today’s Top Stories

All News

One person is dead following a three vehicle crash in Sanpete County around 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Ja...
Waverly Golden

Three vehicle crash in Sanpete County leaves one dead

One person is dead following a three vehicle crash in Sanpete County around 7:30 p.m. on Friday, January 28.
19 hours ago
Tyre Nichols Protests...
Nouran Salahieh, Jamiel Lynch, Chuck Johnston, Shawn Nottingham, Andy Rose and Phil Gast, CNN

More protests today after release of video depicting the deadly police beating of Tyre Nichols

Protesters across the US heldmarches & rallies on Saturday, one day after the release of video showing the police beating of Tyre Nichols in Memphis.
19 hours ago
Gov. Spencer Cox covered a broad range of issues Thursday night at the State of the State Address. ...
Chandler Holt

Governor Spencer Cox signs transgender bill, releases statement

Gov. Spencer Cox released a statement on the transgender bill, that would ban transgender-related surgeries and puberty blockers for minors, on Saturday.
19 hours ago
Temperatures dropping weather worsens...
Allison Chinchar, CNN Meteorologist

‘Dangerous’ arctic air returns this weekend after a month-long hiatus

What has been a mild start to 2023 will come to a halt this weekend as winter makes a roaring comeback across the Northern Plains and Upper Midwest.
19 hours ago
Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, talks about SB117, which he is sponsoring, during a Senate Judicia...
Devin Oldroyd

Two Republicans voted against bill banning transgender-related surgery, here’s why

The Utah Senate has approved a bill banning transgender-related surgery and puberty blockers for minors. A total of two Republicans voted against it.
2 days ago
Rabbi Avremi Zippel talks to the crowd during halftime of a Jazz-Portland Trail Blazers game at Viv...
Mark Jones

International Holocaust Remembrance Day: Area rabbi shares his thoughts

Rabbi Avremi Zippel joined Inside Sources Friday to discuss International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Banner with Cervical Cancer Awareness Realistic Ribbon...
Intermountain Health

Five Common Causes of Cervical Cancer – and What You Can Do to Lower Your Risk

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness month and cancer experts at Intermountain Health are working to educate women about cervical cancer, the tests that can warn women about potential cancer, and the importance of vaccination.
Kid holding a cisco fish at winterfest...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Get Ready for Fun at the 2023 Bear Lake Monster Winterfest

The Bear Lake Monster Winterfest is an annual weekend event jam-packed full of fun activities the whole family can enjoy. This year the event will be held from January 27-29 at the Utah Bear Lake State Park Marina and Sunrise Resort and Event Center in Garden City, Utah. 
happy friends with sparklers at christmas dinner...
Macey's

15 Easy Christmas Dinner Ideas

We’ve scoured the web for you and narrowed down a few of our favorite Christmas dinner ideas to make your planning easy. Choose from the dishes we’ve highlighted to plan your meal or start brainstorming your own meal plan a couple of weeks before to make sure you have time to shop and prepare.
Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...
Macey's

5 Game Day Snacks for the Whole Family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The Best Tools for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Workplace Success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...
Macey's

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
State audit finds problems with Utah response to COVID-19 pandemic