When the 200 Utah National Guard troops dispatched to Washington, D.C. to help with that city’s response to violent protests returned to Utah, the soldiers were tested for exposure to the coronavirus. UtahPolicy.com has learned that at least half of those tests went unaccounted for over several days.
A source with knowledge tells UtahPolicy.com when the troops returned to Utah earlier this month, they were tested at the Southtowne Expo testing center in Sandy. Half of those tests went to the Utah State Lab in Taylorsville, while the other half were taken by TestUtah to their facility in Orem. The source spoke to UtahPolicy.com on the condition of anonymity.
Guard members were tested on Sunday or Monday. By the following Friday, only about 50 of the 200 tests could be accounted for. The paperwork for another 50 said they had been processed by the state lab, but they couldn’t locate the results. The remaining 100 tests from TestUtah finally turned up on Saturday.
It’s the latest black eye for TestUtah, the program backed by several high-tech firms in Utah that has secured $60 million in no-bid contracts in three states to conduct coronavirus testing. There have been questions raised about the accuracy of their tests. TestUtah’s lab was also found not to be in compliance with federal requirements
Tom Hudacho, spokesperson for the Utah Department of Health, says the tests from the Utah Guard members were not lost. Last week the state collected more tests than they had the capacity to process, so some of those tests, including samples from the returning troops, were sent to TestUtah.
“These samples were never lost or misplaced, however, it may not have been immediately apparent to an individual patient where their sample had been sent for testing and who would relay the results of their test,” said Hudacho in an email. “These samples, along with others, were forwarded to TestUtah for processing and we have no reason to question the validity of the results.”
The delay in test results for Utah’s Guard troops is problematic as several Guard members from Washington, D.C. tested positive for the novel coronavirus following their mission to respond to the protests over George Floyd’s death.
Fortunately, the National Guard says none of the soldiers dispatched to the nation’s capital have tested positive for the virus.
Hudacho says there’s nothing unusual about the delay in test results given the higher volume of tests last week.
“Turnaround time fluctuates daily based on demand,” he said. “Last week it took about 3.5 days while we were overcapacity.”
The delay in results and uncertainty over who had possession of those tests raises serious questions about the state’s ability to handle the increased capacity if Utah were to experience a surge in Covid-19 cases. State health officials say they can process up to 1,100 tests per day, and the total capacity for testing in Utah is 7,000 per day.