Emergency Order Includes Increased, Mandatory COVID-19 Testing
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – A major component of Governor Herbert’s new emergency order was to ramp up COVID-19 testing.
Health officials said they’re particularly concerned about 15- to 35-year-olds, as that age group has more potential of spreading COVID-19 without even knowing they have the virus.
That means mandatory testing will go into effect for college students, some high school students and potentially, for many in the workforce.
“The data shows us that the 15- to 35-year-olds right now are really driving a lot of the infection rate for the rest of the state,” said Tom Hudachko, spokesperson for the Utah Department of Health.
Health officials have called them “silent spreaders” – people who have COVID-19, but don’t have any symptoms, so they’re out in the community spreading the virus.
State leaders said it’s one of their biggest concerns.
“The idea here is to go out and test as many individuals as we possibly can, and find out who these people are in terms of who these silent spreaders are, and essentially remove them from the transmission pool by isolating them throughout the course of their infectious period,” said Hudachko.
Health officials said they will start on college campuses. By January 1, all students who either live on-campus or have in-person classes will have to get a COVID-19 test once a week.
The University of Utah is already getting a jump on that testing. Their goal is to test every single one of their 32,000 students in the next two weeks, before Thanksgiving.
“What we’re looking at in the next couple weeks is trying to get all of our students tested, or at least give them the option to be tested before they return to the communities,” said Chris Nelson, spokesperson for the University of Utah. “University of Utah students come from around Utah, every county, and we know it’s not just for the safety of our students, but also for their families and the communities they’re returning to.”
High school students will also be affected, at least the ones involved in extracurricular activities, especially sports. School officials said mandatory testing will begin with football players currently involved in the playoffs. Other details about who will be tested are still being worked out.
“When we look at the data, we can see that it’s pretty well contained in the classroom in terms of safety. It’s outside of the classroom, based on that data, I believe is why the governor and his team of experts have looked at trying to mitigate the spread through activities and socialization outside of schools,” said State Superintendent Sydnee Dickson.
State leaders are also talking about testing high school teachers and increasing testing in the workplace.
They said they’ll be working with the Labor Commission to figure out where people ages 24-35 tend to work, and they’ll be targeting those businesses for testing.
As for where these tests are coming from, health officials said Utah has been promised enough tests and resources from the federal government.
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