Utah health care workers battle cold and long COVID testing lines

Dec 29, 2021, 9:28 PM | Updated: Dec 30, 2021, 5:28 am

Health care workers in Utah are facing a challenge with COVID-19 testing, as the post-holiday rush keeps them busy with long lines.

As they try to keep the lines moving, they’re also having to try to keep warm.

“You know, it’s cold,” said Benjamin Wilkinson with a chuckle. He’s a Utah Department of Health COVID Mobile Testing Team Lead.  “We’ve seen with the snow, it’s been a little bit colder than last year.”

UDOH can’t afford to shut down testing sites because of freezing temps, snow, or rain. UDOH COVID Mobile Testing Program Manager Pete Adams explained that the demand for testing, especially as cases spike with the Omicron variant, is just too high.

But it’s not like those blue surgical gloves or gowns that employees don are lined with fleece.

To help mitigate the freeze factor, Adams described how they make sure that UDOH employees can take turns spending time inside a heated tent or trailer onsite. Workers will spend time as “swabbers,” administering the tests in the cold, and then spend time in the tent or trailer recording data into a computer.

“We rotate teams in and out,” Adams explained. “And that’s what our team leads are kind of charged to look at, is to make sure that the same people aren’t staying out in the cold.”

He said they expect the next eight weeks to be a challenge, as a combo of cold, Omicron and case spikes converge.

As UDOH provides relief in the tent with heaters, they’re also telling employees to bundle up.

“Just the basics– layering, make sure you have a hat on, a beanie, wool socks are a good help, hand warmers,” Wilkinson listed.

And they’re telling those coming to test, to be patient.

“Our team members are cold. Because of the cold, things slow down slightly,” Adams said. “But it’s our goal and our mission to get the process through as fast as we can.”

Adams added that to help things go faster out at the test sites, people should register for a test online at home before showing up.

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Utah health care workers battle cold and long COVID testing lines