Silicon Slopes develops a site to help more Utahns get tested for coronavirus, but how widely remains in question

(Rick Egan | Tribune file photo) Clint Betts, executive director of Silicon Slopes.

Editor’s note: The Salt Lake Tribune is providing readers free access to critical local stories about the coronavirus during this time of heightened concern. See more coverage here. To support journalism like this, please consider donating or become a subscriber.

The state of Utah and technology companies have rolled out a new website to help determine who has symptoms of the coronavirus and to direct symptomatic people — and perhaps asymptomatic ones — for testing.

The website is testUtah.com and is seen as the linchpin of a campaign being called “Crush the Curve.”

“Our goal is to get everyone in Utah who wants to get testing tested,” said Clint Betts, the executive director of Silicon Slopes, the nonprofit supporting Utah’s technology sector. He was among the industry leaders who spoke at a news conference Thursday with Gov. Gary Herbert.

Multiple Utah technology and health care companies helped develop the site. It asks people questions about their symptoms and can direct them to the nearest testing center. So far, testing centers in Provo and Orem have been erected to take patients referred for testing. More testing sites will follow, the tech leaders said Thursday.

Lack of testing has allowed many asymptomatic infected patients to walk around unknowingly spreading the virus and has hampered the nationwide response to the coronavirus. Speakers on Thursday discussed how surveying people about their symptoms helps identify both sick and healthy people so the former can be isolated from the latter.

Utah is processing up to 2,000 tests a day with a goal of reaching 7,000 in the coming days.

“We think we can get ahead of this, and not just flatten the curve, but we can crush the curve,” said Dave Elkington, CEO of InsideSales.com, referring to the graphic illustration used to describe Utah’s coronavirus trend.

The site also asks demographic information, including whether patients have lost employment because of the coronavirus. Betts said the information is given to the Utah Department of Health and not shared with any private companies. Personal information retained by department will be deleted after the pandemic, Elkington said.

It was unclear Thursday whom testUtah.com will and should refer for a test. State epidemiologist Angela Dunn said the site is not programmed to refer someone with no symptoms for testing. Tom Hudachko, a spokesman for the Utah Department of Health, later said testing is supposed to be reserved for people showing symptoms.

But a Salt Lake Tribune employee who filled out the survey and reported none of the COVID-19 symptoms — which can include fever, chills, muscle aches, nausea and trouble breathing — was still referred for testing.

Hudachko said the site was selecting some random asymptomatic people for testing. That feature was shut off late Thursday.

Testing of seemingly healthy people is something that has been discouraged thus far by health professionals due to a lack of tests, a lack of personal protective equipment for medical staff and because tests require people to leave their homes.

Dunn did encourage healthy people to complete the survey.

In an online town hall later in the day, Josh James, the CEO of the business analytics company Domo Inc., said the marketing campaign for testUtah.com will feature Utah Jazz players and perhaps other athletes and celebrities in promotional materials.

He said the campaign will also include challenging friends and family to get tested, similar to the Ice Bucket Challenge to raise money for ALS research.

“If you really want to get Utah back in business," James said, “you have to be able to test and trace."

Editor’s note • Clint Betts serves on the The Salt Lake Tribune’s nonprofit board of directors.