National public health officials urge a “new approach” to Utah testing

Oct 31, 2020, 7:22 PM | Updated: Nov 1, 2020, 3:47 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Two top national health officials were in Utah on Saturday meeting with Gov. Herbert and, later, with officials from the University of Utah to discuss Utah testing for COVID-19.

After their meeting, the Governor tweeted his concern over large social gatherings and the importance of wearing a mask.


Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force and Robert. R. Redfield, MD, Director of the Centers for Disease Control, then visited the University of Utah for what the school described as an informal discussion on the pandemic. Drs Birx and Redfield met with  President Ruth Watkins and Michael Good, MD, the CEO of University of Utah Health.

The topic was the university’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. And later, the national officials had a suggestion for Utah.

University officials say their testing strategies are showing a positive effect, especially when the University’s positive case rate is compared to that of Salt Lake County, which surrounds the campus.

“The thing about this virus is that it moves quickly,” said the CDC’s Dr. Redfield, “and the good news is that it can move quickly in the direction of improvement.

“And now is the time to develop a strategic strategy in testing to maximize our ability to identify the silent epidemic of asymptomatic infections.”

Their idea is this: in order to mitigate outbreaks in COVID-19 hotspots, conduct more frequent, point of care testing of those communities. In the case of the University of Utah, that includes students, health care workers, university staff, and faculty.

This approach would allow Utah health officials to trace higher positive rates directly to the communities where people testing positive in large numbers live.

Drs Birx and Redfield say that this is a strategy they’ve been speaking about with dozens of other campuses across the nation. 

On Friday Utah announced that 2,292 more people had tested positive for COVID-19. It was Utah’s highest one-day total yet. Right now, most Utah counties, 23 of 29, are listed as a high transmission area.

How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19Coronavirus

COVID-19 coronavirus is transmitted from person to person. It is a virus that is similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading:

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Don’t touch your face.
  • Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet)
  • If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities.)
  • Get a flu shot.

Local resources

KSL Coronavirus Q&A

Utah’s Coronavirus Information

UtahState Board of Education

Utah Hospital Association

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707

National Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Commonly asked questions, World Health Organization

Cases in the United States

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National public health officials urge a “new approach” to Utah testing