New year brings Utah its ‘highest testing demand’ for COVID-19

Some sites were seeing waits of over an hour for tests.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Health workers with the Utah Department of Health test the public for COVID-19 at the testing site in the parking lot of the Utah Public Health Laboratory building in Taylorsville Dec. 30, 2021.

COVID-19 testing sites were feeling the post-Christmas crunch over the weekend as dozens of cars lined up for blocks, resulting in what the Utah Department of Health called “the highest testing demand we have seen in Utah.”

Lines of dozens of cars translated to hours of waiting for Utahns. People complained on social media about the long queues to get a test at a time when coronavirus cases are surging across the country.

In Bountiful on Saturday, a Salt Lake Tribune reporter waited in line at the TestUtah site at 726 S. 100 East (adjacent to the South Davis Senior Activity Center and near the Davis County Library South Branch on 725 S. Main St.) starting at 1:20 p.m. The line took an hour and 20 minutes to get through.

As of 2:40 p.m., the line consisted of about 60 cars, stretching for nearly two blocks from the library to 100 South and Main Street.

On Sunday, a separate Tribune reporter received PCR test results less than 24 hours after it was conducted. PCR tests normally take between one and three days to return a result.

Locals also responded to an inquiry made by The Salt Lake Tribune on social media asking if and where they were seeing long testing lines.

On Twitter, user @inkedtater said the testing line at the Timpanogos Regional Hospital in Orem wrapped around the block.

User @robert_binion added that officials at the Martha Hughes Cannon Health Building in Salt Lake City were trying to manage long lines by handing out take-home tests.

On Reddit, user ldesertdrifter said they’d been waiting in a Draper line for nearly two hours at the time of their comment.

In an email, reader Victoria Reid said her husband waited in line for 90 minutes to talk with someone at the Mt. Olympus Senior Center about a COVID-19 test.

At that point, she said he was given the choice of waiting in another line to be tested or receiving an at-home test, which he took.

“What I don’t understand is why there isn’t a person greeting people when they arrive and handing out at-home tests,” Reid said. “This would greatly reduce people’s wait in line.”

The long waits weren’t exclusive to Saturday and Sunday. Reddit user youknowthegame wrote that they waited two hours to be tested at a Holladay recreation center on Dec. 30.

And Twitter user @swansofnever wrote that he’s been seeing “massive” testing lines that are 10-plus cars deep in Lehi.

In a statement made Saturday to The Tribune, the Utah Department of Health said it is “aware of long lines at many testing sites and is requesting patience from those who are waiting to be tested.”

Long lines started last week following Christmas, according to the statement, as a result of high respiratory illness, travel testing, testing for holiday gatherings, and a return to school and work.

“We are making adjustments to staffing, and providing ‘at home’ testing options when possible,” the department said.

To find a testing location, visit coronavirus.utah.gov/utah-covid-19-testing-locations/.

— Tribune reporter Alex Vejar contributed to this story.