Utah coronavirus cases spike — but testing restrictions relax

(Trent Nelson/The Salt Lake Tribune file photo via AP) Utah Department of Health State Epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn answers questions at a news conference Tuesday, March 10, 2020.

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The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in Utah continued to rise Monday as the state’s testing capacity expanded dramatically.

There were 257 confirmed cases in Utah as of Monday, up 76 from Sunday’s 181 cases. And Salt Lake County surpassed 100 on Monday, with 112 cases — up from 84 on Sunday.

Utah can expect many more confirmed cases in coming days, with testing no longer restricted to patients who have had contact with people confirmed to have the virus or who have traveled to areas where infection is widespread.

Any patient with symptoms — cough, shortness of breath or fever — may be eligible for a test, University of Utah Health and ARUP Laboratories announced on Monday.

“As of today, ARUP Laboratories can do 1,500 tests for coronavirus each day,” said Michael Good, CEO of U. Health. “[The lab] anticipates a capacity of more than 3,000 as long as sufficient supplies remain available.”

Those with symptoms should call the U. coronavirus hotline at 801-587-0712 before visiting one of four drive-up sites: Farmington Health Center, South Jordan Health Center, Sugar House Health Center and Redwood Health Center.

Patients will undergo a brief, in-car exam from a doctor, physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner; those with severe symptoms have priority, and a provider may deny a test in mild cases, said Kim Hanson, section chief for clinical microbiology at ARUP Laboratories.

“There will be some clinical judgment used at the time,” Hanson said.

Test results should be available within 24 hours for patients who require hospital care or who themselves are health care workers, Hansen said. Results are expected within 48 hours for other patients.

Although University Health would not disclose the cost of testing and evaluations, Richard Orlandi, its chief medical officer for ambulatory health, said it was “working with individuals and insurers to make that maximally available.”

U. Health and Intermountain Healthcare hope to fully launch a fifth testing station later this week in Park City, where an outbreak of COVID-19 has affected a large number of residents and visitors, Orlandi said.

There were 73 cases in Summit County on Monday, up from 50 on Sunday.

Davis County on Monday had 29 cases, up from 19 from the day before. That includes the one death from COVID-19 in Utah so far, a man over 60 whose death was reported Sunday.

Utah County reported 12 cases on Monday, up from seven on Sunday. Those numbers include one Brigham Young University student who has tested positive. In an alert, the school said it will begin tracing the student’s contacts in classes and on campus to determine if anyone else is at risk. This is the first confirmed case at the Provo school.

The Southwest Utah Health Department reported five cases Monday, up from one on Sunday. The Weber/Morgan Health Department has eight cases as of Monday, up from six on Sunday.

More than 5,000 people have been tested statewide. Sunday was Utah’s highest-volume testing day yet, with 967 tests returned, according to state data.

“By identifying more individuals who are infected, we can more wisely deploy our isolation ... measures,” Hanson said. State health officials also can do more contact tracing to identify and isolate those who have been exposed to confirmed patients, she said.

There is enough chemical reagent in Utah labs to continue testing at this rate for the time being, Dunn said; a nationwide shortage of the chemicals previously had hampered testing.

But, she said, “there’s always going to be the unknown, of whether we can get the reagents and the supplies to conduct the tests.”

The state also has enough protective gear — masks, gowns and gloves — to keep testing, though as more patients require hospital care a shortage is expected.

About 10 percent of diagnosed patients so far have been hospitalized, Dunn said, though that figure may be affected by rigid testing criteria that until recently gave priority to the sickest patients.

Although older patients — age 65 and up — have been more likely to need hospital care, infections have affected young and old equally, Dunn said.

The risk of spread, should symptoms develop, applies across all ages, she added. “If you’re 25 to 44, it’s very important you do self-isolate until your symptoms have resolved."

— Tribune reporter Courtney Tanner contributed to this story