U Of U Launches Massive COVID-19 Testing Project
May 6, 2020, 4:57 PM | Updated: 8:22 pm
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Officials with the University of Utah launched a massive COVID-19 testing project to try to discover the true rate of infection in the Beehive State and the range of symptoms for individuals with the virus.
It’s called the Utah HERO project, which stands for Health & Economic Recovery Outreach.
“By understanding the true infection activity in our state, we’re going to be so much better equipped to make wise decisions that will both allow the health of the state to be protected while simultaneously maximizing our capacity to get the economy going,” said Steven Alder, director of field operations for HERO Project and professor in the university’s Department of Family and Preventative Medicine.
This study was the first initiative in Utah to try to find out how prevalent COVID-19 is in the state. It’s a collaboration between the David Eccles School of Business, University of Utah Health and the Utah Department of Health.
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They’ve already started randomly testing people in Salt Lake, Davis, Utah and Summit counties. Over the next few months, they will test 10,000 people.
This information will help state health care leaders understand how COVID-19 has spread in Utah and give business leaders the data they need to get people back into the workforce safely.
“We’re going to be testing certain demographic groups, certain geographies and certain occupations so that we can actually find and try to determine the correct policies for getting this economy back to work,” said Taylor Randall, dean of the David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah.
Random sampling provides a representative picture of the extent to which COVID-19 has spread. Households in the four counties will be randomly selected for participation.
“Without testing everybody, with a smaller group of tests we can get very good estimates of what is actually happening in the population,” said Alder. “But that does require that we use a randomized sample.”
That scientific method allows them to make inferential projections in the population.
Utah HERO team members will tag households with a flyer or door hanger explaining the project. Field teams will follow up with an in-person visit to gather information about those living in the residence and provide instruction on how to get tested.
All those living in the residence who are 12 years and older will be asked to visit a testing site where they will receive two tests: a PCR swab test to detect the presence of coronavirus and a blood draw to detect antibodies.
Antibodies to the coronavirus indicate probable past infection.
Mobile testing units will be set up in neighborhoods where the tests will be performed.
Officials said participants will not need to pay for testing nor show proof of insurance.
The data will indicate where COVID-19 has spread, which occupations and other groups are most impacted and how many undetected infections are occurring. The more that people participate, the better the accuracy of the data.
“A survey of this magnitude would normally take months to organize, but we’ve been able to move things forward in a couple of weeks thanks to all of our collaborators,” Alder said. “The University of Utah is committed to serving the state during this difficult time and we hope this information will help our leaders make informed public health and business decisions.”
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How Do I Prevent It?
The CDC has some simple recommendations, most of which are the same for preventing other respiratory illnesses or the flu:
- Avoid close contact with people who may be sick
- Avoid touching your face
- Stay home when you are sick
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and then throw the tissue in the trash
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. Always wash your hands with soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
How To Get Help
If you’re worried you may have COVID-19, you can contact the Utah Coronavirus Information Line at 1-800-456-7707 to speak to trained healthcare professionals. You can also use telehealth services through your healthcare providers.
If you see evidence of PRICE GOUGING, the Utah Attorney General’s Office wants you to report it. Common items in question include toilet paper, water, hand sanitizer, certain household cleaners, and even cold medicine and baby formula. Authorities are asking anyone who sees price gouging to report it to the Utah Division of Consumer Protection at 801-530-6601 or 800-721-7233. The division can also be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.