NORTH OGDEN — Those exhibiting coronavirus symptoms can get testing at a handful of locations in northern Utah — at clinics in North Ogden, Layton, Tremonton and Hyde Park, as well as McKay-Dee Hospital in Ogden.
As the numbers of cases in the state rise, at least for now, Intermountain Healthcare is offering testing at those locations and several more scattered around Utah. “We’ve been building them up in the last week,” said Intermountain Healthcare spokesman Brad Gillman.
In all, Intermountain Healthcare, operator of McKay-Dee, has drive-through testing sites for those with mild or moderate symptoms at 12 locations around the state, according to its website. Those include North Ogden InstaCare in North Ogden, the Layton Clinic in Layton, Bear River Clinic Family Medicine in Tremonton and North Cache Valley InstaCare in Hyde Park. Testing at McKay-Dee is meant for those with more serious cases, while the website lists seven additional Intermountain locations reserved for those with a doctor’s order to be tested.
Intermountain officials ask that the public call first for screening to make sure they need to be tested and don’t go to the locations without first getting a green light from a health expert. The healthcare company’s COVID-19 hotline is 844-442-5224 and Intermountain also operates a symptom checker available on its website, intermountainhealthcare.org.
Traffic at the testing locations has been steady, Gillman said, while the online symptom checker had more than 60,000 users in its first four days of operation, underscoring concern among the public.
“About half of those using the Intermountain Symptom Checker had no risk or very low risk. Nearly 40% were directed to a telephone or telehealth visit where they could be further screened. Self-quarantine was recommended for 9% of users,” Intermountain said in a press release Tuesday. Most, though, did not exhibit risk factors necessitating testing.
Indeed, as concern about coronavirus escalates, officials see the screening process, whether online or by telephone, as a way for the “worried well” to get attention without taxing hospitals and clinics. Utah Department of Health figures updated Tuesday showed that 5,823 people around the state had been tested for coronavirus, with 298 confirmed cases.
“By using the online COVID-19 Symptom Checker and then screening with telephone and telehealth services, we’ve been able to greatly reduce the number of unnecessary visits to clinics and hospitals,” Todd Vento, medical director of Intermountain’s TeleHealth Infectious Disease Service, said in the statement. Testing is recommended only for those who meet certain criteria set by the Utah Department of Health and Intermountain.
Those going to the drive-through sites stay in their cars while they’re tested, while those with more serious cases go through the emergency room at McKay-Dee. Those at the clinics wear special garb to help them guard against infection, while special procedures are in place at McKay-Dee to minimize the possibility of the spread of the disease, according to Gillman.
Health officials swab inside the nose of those to be tested and samples can take several days to be processed. “Because there is currently no treatment for COVID-19 (other than helping alleviate symptoms), a positive test — especially for normally healthy individuals — will likely result in advice to stay home and self-isolate,” reads the Intermountain website.
University of Utah Health also offers COVID-19 testing at Farmington and other locations, according to a tweet on Monday. The system asks those with symptoms to first call 801-587-0712 before visiting a clinic or health facility, though.
Davis Hospital and Medical Center in Layton had offered drive-through coronavirus testing on an outpatient basis but stopped it, at least for now, to ration available kits, according to Jodi DeJong, spokeswoman for Steward Health Care, operator of the facility. Coronavirus testing is still available through the emergency room and the hospital still treats those with the ailment.
Officials from MountainStar, operator of Ogden Regional Medical Center, didn’t immediately respond to queries seeking comment on their coronavirus testing policies.
Of the 298 confirmed cases as of Tuesday, 127 were in Salt Lake County, followed by Summit County with 90 and Davis County with 31. There were nine in Weber and Morgan counties, which share a health department.