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COVID-19 testing just got a lot less ‘nosy’ in Southern Utah – St George News


ST. GEORGE —The over 48,000 people in Southern Utah who have taken a COVID-19 test all share in knowing how intrusive the test can be, usually consisting of a long stick that goes deep into both nostrils.

A saliva-based COVID-19 test is demonstrated at the Intermountain Healthcare Southridge Clinic in Riverton, Utah, on an unspecified date. | Photo courtesy of Intermountain Healthcare, St. George News

Perhaps, then, the news might be welcoming that the “stick up the nose” is going away for most drive-through testing sites locally.

Intermountain Healthcare, which operates three of the six drive-through coronavirus testing sites in Southern Utah, announced Thursday that it is phasing insaliva-based testing that requires little more than a person spitting into a small vial. 

“This is something that our community and patients have been asking for, and we are happy to provide this option,” Dr. Patrick Carroll, medical director of Dixie Regional Medical Center, said.

Carroll said the test was validated by Intermountain’s central laboratory, supervised by Intermountain’s Associate Medical Director for Infectious Diseases Dr. Bert Lopansri.

Lopansri, who also directs microbiology for Intermountain, said in a statement the new saliva-based test, while being less intrusive, won’t be any less thorough. 

“This new process should be much more comfortable for patients and enable us to collect samples from more patients at one time while continuing to maintain a high quality of our testing,” Lopansri said. 

Intermountain Healthcare operates drive-through testing at the following locations:

  • Dixie Regional Medical Center’s 400 East campus at 376 E. 500 South in St. George.
  • Cedar City InstaCare at 962 Sage Drive in Cedar City.
  • Garfield Memorial Hospital at 200 N. 400 East in Panguitch.

As seen in the video at the start of this story, the test is administered by a person giving a sample of their saliva into a small vial. 

A saliva-based COVID-19 test is demonstrated at the Intermountain Healthcare Southridge Clinic in Riverton, Utah, on an unspecified date. | Photo courtesy of Intermountain Healthcare, St. George News

The test is the same type of thorough, PCR test the previous nose swab test was. This means it will remain a 24- to 72-hour wait for results. 

This differs from the antigen test, which is also saliva-based. The antigen test can produce results in minutes but is still considered less accurate than the PCR test. 

While Carroll applauds the easier test, he still said the biggest test Southern Utahns face is continuing coronavirus prevention so they don’t find themselves with the symptoms that warrant a test.

“While this expands the COVID testing options, we continue to encourage people to wear masks and practice safe physical distancing as we enter into cold and flu season,” Carroll said. 

Utah hits new high for coronavirus infections

While the news was good for those wanting it to be easier to take a COVID-19 test locally, the statewide report from the Utah Department of Health Thursday took another grim turn. 

Chart shows new cases in Southern Utah from the coronavirus from Sept. 1 to Sept. 24, 2020, according to the Southwest Utah Public Health Department. | Chart by Chris Reed, St. George News |Click to enlarge

The state reported 1,198 new cases Thursday, while the statewide positivity rate for COVID-19 tests rose to 14.2%. The seven-day daily average of cases that went below Gov. Gary Herbert’s goal of fewer than 400 cases a day at the start of the month is now approaching 1,000.

The main source of the new spike remains Utah County, which saw some citiesmove to the orange risk level Tuesday. The spike has been less severe in Southern Utah and mostly limited to Washington County. While the seven-day daily average has continued to rise in Southern Utah to 25.3 cases a day, it is still below the average of 52 cases per day seen during the infections spike in July that caused Dixie Regional Medical Center to nearly reach capacity. 

The news comes as the nation has passed 200,000 deaths from the coronavirus in seven months, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

At this point, the equivalent of the entire population of all the cities in Washington County combined (177, 556) has died of COVID-19 in the U.S., with room to spare. Though with 30 deaths, Southern Utah has been spared some of the larger mortality grief the rest of the nation has faced. 

COVID-19 information resources

St. George News has made every effort to ensure the information in this story is accurate at the time it was written. However, as the situation and science surrounding the coronavirus continues to evolve, it’s possible that some data has changed.

We invite you to check the resources below for up-to-date information and resources.

Southern Utah coronavirus count (as of Sept. 24, 2020, seven-day average in parentheses)

Positive COVID-19 tests: 4,103 (24.0 new infections per day in seven days, rising)

  • Washington County: 3,212 (19.6 per day, steady)
  • Iron County: 731 (3.6 per day, rising)
  • Kane County: 75 (0.3 per day, rising)
  • Garfield County: 48 (0.1 per day, rising) 
  • Beaver County: 37 (0.4 per day, rising) 

Deaths: 30 (0.1 per day, steady)

  • Washington County: 25 
  • Iron County: 2
  • Garfield County: 2
  • Kane County: 1

Hospitalized: 10 (rising)

Recovered:3,673

Current Utah seven-day average: 857 (rising)

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

Chris Reed serves as weekend editor and reporter for St. George News. He has steadily moved east after growing up among the Valley girls of Southern California’s San Fernando Valley. He graduated from Cal State Northridge before spending a decade in Las Vegas. As a sports reporter and editor, he once compared shoe sizes with Shaq. As a news reporter and editor, he has covered parades, triumphs and tragedies. He also once got close to the stars doing publicity for a space module builder. He came to St. George for love and has grown to love the community. He is the proud father of two boys, his youngest a champion against both autism and Type 1 diabetes.

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