The Utah COVID-19 Community Task Force met and recommended that Utah’s hospital and healthcare systems immediately work to establish designated sites to screen for novel coronavirus infections, including screening options for rural Utah.

The recommendation was made in close consultation with experts at the Utah Department of Health and Utah’s hospital systems, who sit on the task force. 

“We’ve learned from watching coronavirus outbreaks in other locations that it’s absolutely crucial to take steps now to ensure that our health systems can continue functioning, if not normally, at least optimally, as we will likely see more cases of COVID-19 in our state,” said Lt. Governor Spencer J. Cox, who chairs the task force. “Establishing designated screening areas will protect waiting patients and healthcare professionals from infection, and preserve precious resources.” 

“We know there are a lot of viruses out there that produce symptoms similar to COVID-19,” said Dr. Angela Dunn, state epidemiologist, who also sits on the task force. “The last thing we want is for people to risk getting infected with novel coronavirus when they are actually coming in to get tested. We need to protect patients coming in for screening, we need to protect patients visiting our hospitals for other purposes, and we need to protect the health providers who actually perform the screenings.”

As the state of Utah and private entities continue to increase their capacities to test for COVID-19, public health officials have determined that conducting such screenings in designated areas will greatly limit potential exposures to the virus. Pre-screening locations should be established outside of usual hospital points of entry and could include tents, alternative entry points, or even the screening of patients while still in their vehicles. 

The University of Utah Medical Center has already instituted this procedure. Other hospitals are anticipated to establish their own pre-screening protocols in the near future. 

In this morning’s meeting, the task force also discussed introducing testing mechanisms to monitor for community spread, as well as guidance for Utah’s public schools and systems of higher education. Task force meetings will be held on a bi-weekly basis. More information will be provided as it becomes available. 

For more information, you can visit coronavirus.utah.gov, or follow the Utah COVID-19 Community Task Force on Twitter and Facebook, @UtahCoronavirus.