Health officials tell Utahns to prepare for long lines at COVID-19 testing sites

Jan 11, 2022, 6:37 PM
(The line at the Martha Hughes Cannon Building in Salt Lake City on January 11, 2022.  The cars tha...
(The line at the Martha Hughes Cannon Building in Salt Lake City on January 11, 2022. The cars that appear to be parked along the street are actually in line for testing. Photo: Paul Nelson)
(The line at the Martha Hughes Cannon Building in Salt Lake City on January 11, 2022. The cars that appear to be parked along the street are actually in line for testing. Photo: Paul Nelson)

SALT LAKE CITY — Unprecedented demand for COVID-19 tests are making it harder and harder for Utahns to get tested when they need it. Health officials say they’re looking for ways to handle an increased workload. However, they say Utahns should be ready to spend a long time in line at COVID-19 testing sites.

Long lines at COVID-19 testing sites

Some workers at the testing site at the Martha Hughes Cannon Building in Salt Lake City estimated the line could last between one and two hours.  Inside that line was the Brown family, who wanted to get all five family members tested. Ashi Brown says they popped by the Utah Department of Health building after seeing the lines in other facilities.

She said, “We dropped by the first one, last month, but they were closed.  This is the second time, and they said their appointments are full.  The one in Draper is also full.”

Her husband, Sean Brown, has waited in long lines, before.  He believes workers at test sites may underestimate how long it takes to get to the front of the line.

He said, “It was more than an hour once we got to the white sign that said ’20 to 30 minutes.’”

(A long line of cars at a COVID testing site at the Maverik Center in West Valley on January 11, 2022. Photo: Paul Nelson)

Many emails received

KSL received many emails from people who said they had an appointment. However, they still waited up to two hours to get their COVID-19 test.  Brittany Brown, UDOH COVID-19 Testing Director, says they’ve heard reports of people waiting up to four hours in places like Draper.

“We’re rapidly exploring larger testing sites that we can move to that could handle a larger volume of cars and traffic,” Brown said.

Community sponsored sites across the state are testing up to 20,000 people every day. Brown says is double the demand they saw during the last peak in January 2021.  In some facilities, police have been called to limit traffic coming into the sites when they reach max capacity.

For now, Brown says the best thing to do is to arrive at the COVID-19 testing sites as early as possible. And plan to stay there for a while as they look for ways to increase testing capacity and improve traffic control.

“Definitely don’t wait until the end of the day to go because they’re cutting off the lines,” she said.

Plus, she says some COVID-19 testing sites that used to accept walk-ups have shifted to an “appointment only” system, so people need to keep a close eye on the state’s website for up-to-date testing information.

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Health officials tell Utahns to prepare for long lines at COVID-19 testing sites