CORONAVIRUS UTAH

Utah Poison Control Center Fielding Thousands Of Calls As Coronavirus Hotline

May 8, 2020, 7:12 PM | Updated: 7:59 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — The Utah Department of Health’s coronavirus hotline has been ringing off the hook since COVID-19 broke out in Utah, playing a key role in keeping families informed. The Utah Poison Control Center has been taking those calls as the hotline ever since.

“Every question is important,” said Amberly Johnson, Utah Poison Control Center director. “It’s better to call and find out the answer, rather than sit and worry about it.”

The UPCC, located on the University of Utah campus, typically takes 120 to 150 calls a day. Now, doubling as the coronavirus hotline, it’s not unusual that it gets 10 times that number of calls on peak days.

“Whenever some new information comes out, everybody has a lot of questions about it,” said Sherrie Pace, outreach coordinator for the Utah Poison Control Center.

Most days during the coronavirus pandemic, the phones at the UPCC have been ringing off the hook, with the busiest days seeing as many as 4,000 calls.

Peaks typically occur whenever there is substantial new information about the coronavirus, or about the way the state or counties are reacting to it.

“Right around that time when news broke about Rudy Gobert, that was one of our biggest days,” said Pace.

COVID-19 was suddenly a real threat to the state of Utah.

“There was a lot of fear and a lot of questions that people had,” said Pace.

The hotline serves as a lifeline for those who are concerned they may be sick with COVID-19.

Since March 3, more than 60,000 Utahns have dialed the hotline to hear messages about COVID-19 or to speak with trained staff— a mix of pharmacists, nurses and students in professional health programs.

The staff helps each other answer questions when one of them doesn’t know the answer.

“It’s very collaborative,” said Johnson. “It can be a little hectic and a little bit busy, but we really try to support one another and give the caller the best experience that they can have.”

Poison control usually staffs the line with three people.

When calls flooded in beginning early March, as many as 20 people answered phones.

“It was really kind of an all hands on deck kind of situation,” said Pace. “The staff just really rallied and were amazing at jumping in and helping.”

Officials said the hotline is still taking poison-related calls from people worried about medicine, plants or cleaning products their kids have swallowed or touched.

Everyone answering calls was glad to help in this time of need, the director said.

“It’s been really rewarding, and been a way to reach out to people and contribute in the way that they can,” said Johnson.

The Utah Coronavirus Hotline is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week and be reached toll-free at 1-800-456-7707.


Coronavirus Resources

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.
The CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.

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.

Additional Resources

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 consumerprotection@utah.gov.

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Utah Poison Control Center Fielding Thousands Of Calls As Coronavirus Hotline