Governor's COVID-19 Task Force Says Testing Will Increase
Utah’s Governor, Lt. Governor, educational dignitaries and health experts addressed the community on Thursday to provide information about the status of coronavirus incidents and testing in Utah to date.
They recommended a number of guidelines including all gatherings of more than 100 people be immediately cancelled. Higher learning institutions announced classes would be held on-line beginning March 16.
Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox who is heading up the Governors Coronavirus Task Force gave an update on testing availability in the state. He says for most people, contracting coronavirus will be like a cold or mild flu. However, he says 5% of the people who get sick most likely will need hospitalization and extraordinary healthcare measures. He says if the virus spread is not slowed, it will overwhelm Utah’s healthcare delivery system.
"What matters with this virus and with other pandemics that we've seen in the past, we know that the mortality rate decreases significantly if we get people the best health care possible. The only thing that can prevent us is, we have the most advanced healthcare system in the world and the best in the United States right here in the state of Utah. The only thing that would prevent our citizens from getting world class Healthcare is if we overwhelmed that system. The only way to prevent overwhelming the health care system is to slow down the velocity at which this disease spreads.”
Cox says hospitals in the US run at about 80% capacity and he points out that the COVID-19 illness could easily take the remaining 20% of bed space. He says individual actions could have a huge impact on those who are more vulnerable.
Populations over the age of 60 and who are immune-compromised are the most vulnerable.
To date Thursday, March 12, the Utah Public Health Laboratory has tested 136 people. Prior to the lab becoming certified, the CDC tested 18 Utah residents. Cox says private laboratories have started testing.
“ARUP at the University of Utah tested 100 individuals yesterday alone and in the coming days will be able to increase testing significantly up to around 500 individuals. We are also working very closely with IHC. They're in the process of getting their test certified. We hope to have that certification very soon after that certification comes, they will also be able to ramp up testing into the hundreds.
He says with the ramping up of test certifications at IHC and ARUP, it will allow more surveillance testing to be done to detect if community spread is occurring.
"Again, the purpose of what we’re announcing today is to allow the testing to keep up, to catch up with where we are so that we're making the right decisions two weeks from now as we evaluate where we are right now. We do not have as of yet an, cases of community spread. That is very, very important. Now admittedly we wish we were testing more and we're going to be testing more in the coming days."
Cox says five cases in Utah have tested positive and are being monitored by public health officials.
“We have five residents who have tested positive. That includes the two jazz players that were mentioned earlier. Three of those cases were confirmed by Utah laboratories. The other two were confirmed by labs in Oklahoma. Additionally, the Utah public health lab has confirmed one positive result of a non-Utah resident who was in the state on vacation They will identify an interview close contacts and the patients will be isolated.”
Cox says testing for the virus has been insufficient, but they hope the capacity will eventually be capable of handling 1000 patients a day. Drive-thru testing is underway and expanding. Cox says the recently identified third patient handled the testing the right way.
“They used Tele Help to message ahead. The doctor was able to talk to them about their history, was able to identify them as someone who possibly contacted the virus. They came, they were tested outside of the clinic, so they didn't expose any health care workers. The person then went home. The test was run; the test came back positive; that person is isolated right now. And, only one other person was potentially exposed because of the quick action and the right action that was taken. That's what we want to happen.”
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