As the coronavirus spreads rapidly this chilly January, Utahns can pick up tests to take at home — rather than waiting in long lines of cars or hunting through stores to find a display that hasn’t sold out.
The at-home kits are available at the state’s free COVID-19 testing sites run by the Orem company Nomi Health, but only when the wait time reaches an hour or longer, said Jenny Johnson, spokesperson for the Utah Department of Health.
“We’ve done this the last couple of weeks in anticipation of large testing volumes,” Johnson said, “especially on the weekends when there may be limited testing sites open for the holidays.”
The take-home tests are offered to people who don’t need a specific PCR or antigen test, such as for travel, she said. And they are for the people in a vehicle who need a test — not for family or friends at home, she added.
These specific kits are also available through the department’s mobile testing program and TourHealth sites, she said.
On Monday, Utah reported 14,754 new coronavirus cases following the holiday weekend. That high number was likely a “dramatic undercount,” though, according to Dr. Eddie Stenehjem, an infectious diseases physician at Intermountain Healthcare. On Tuesday, the rolling seven-day average of new cases stood at 3,754 — the highest that figure has ever been.
While at-home kits help relieve the long lines of people waiting to be tested, they are not generally reported and included in the state’s coronavirus tallies.
The Utah Department of Health and Salt Lake County Health Department do not recommend that people contact them about a positive result from an at-home test. That’s partly because “there’s not really a good way” for people to report them, Johnson said.
“Some at-home test kits allow you to upload results, which then get fed to the public health authority,” she said, “but most aren’t like this and the results will never be reported to public health.”
If someone tests positive for COVID-19 with an at-home test, they need to follow isolation guidelines, Johnson said. She also suggests letting your employer or school know so they can contact other people who were exposed.
“As schools start back up, this is especially important,” Johnson said. “Parents should let their child’s school know if their child tests positive so they aren’t attending while infectious, and so other students/staff can be informed about what to do.”
Salt Lake County residents who have questions about isolation periods or their close contacts can call 385-468-4636 for information, said Nicholas Rupp, spokesperson for the county health department.
Over the weekend, state health officials said they saw “the highest testing demand we have seen in Utah.” Dr. Leisha Nolen, state epidemiologist, said the Utah Department of Health prepared for the uptick by adding more employees at sites and adding days that people could get tested.
“We usually don’t test on holidays” or on Sundays, “but this week we decided we really needed to,” Nolen said.
There were also “a lot of people working a lot of hours” at the laboratories, which “have really good capacity,” she said.