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Windstorm could impact Utah testing for COVID-19

State reports another 314 cases and 3 more deaths from virus

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University of Utah Health workers test for COVID-19 in Farmington on Friday, July 31, 2020. U of U Health is using cooling methods at its testing stations to keep employees comfortable during the extreme heat.

University of Utah Health workers test for COVID-19 in Farmington on Friday, July 31, 2020. Tuesday’s hurricane-force winds ripped through and destroyed three large tents at U. Health’s Farmington testing site, leaving nothing but the bent metal frames behind.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

FARMINGTON — Intense winds left some northern Utah COVID-19 testing sites inoperable Wednesday, but health systems say testing is still running smoothly at most locations.

Tuesday’s hurricane-force winds ripped through and destroyed three large tents at University of Utah Health’s Farmington testing site, leaving nothing but the bent metal frames behind. Tents were also damaged by strong winds at the Sugar House and Redwood Road testing locations, but those required minimal repairs and were back in use on Wednesday.

Michael Bronson, director of community clinics for U. Health, said the Farmington testing site will remain closed until Friday, but Redwood, Sugar House and South Jordan will have extended hours to make up for closing on Tuesday as well as the Labor Day holiday.

Patients can make appointments or also arrive unscheduled at the U. Health sites, where less-invasive saliva testing for COVID-19 began on Sept. 1, although appointments are suggested, he said.

In the future, Bronson said U. Health is looking to replace the damaged test site tents with more permanent structures, built by in-house facilities staff, similar to the one at the Redwood clinic. Such structures should help withstand weather predicaments in all seasons.

Some Intermountain Healthcare testing sites were also closed due to power outages caused by the windstorm on Tuesday and early Wednesday.

Three sites, including the Intermountain Salt Lake Clinic, Intermountain North Temple Clinic and the Intermountain Layton Clinic, remained closed on Wednesday. Officials are encouraging patients to call ahead to learn about impacted sites and hours of operation.

“We hope to resume normal operating hours at these testing sites by tomorrow morning,” Intermountain spokesman Jess Gomez said Wednesday, adding that they are directing patients to nearby testing locations until they are up and running.

Updates are posted on the organizations’ web pages and on their social media accounts.

The storm is expected to have an impact on the number of people tested in the last couple days, as the sites were closed and numbers may appear lower than usual. The reported numbers will have an effect on the seven-day rolling averages as well, according to the Utah Department of Health.

Another 314 cases of COVID-19 were reported on Wednesday, bringing the state’s total number of infections since mid-March to 55,673. Results include the latest 3,194 patients who were tested.

Daggett County, in northeastern Utah, reported its first confirmed case of COVID-19 on Wednesday, a woman between the ages of 25 and 44, believed to have contracted the illness from another positive case, according to the Tri-County Health Department in Vernal.

The majority of reported cases in Utah — nearly 65% of all cases — are traced to a known transmission of disease, a contact with a positive test result, according to state health department data.

For 20% of positive cases, investigation into the exposure source is inconclusive, and 9% is believed to be from community transmission without knowing the source, about 4% is due to exposure during health care work and less than 3% of COVID-19 cases confirmed in Utah is tied to travel outside of Utah.

The Tri-County region, which serves Daggett, Uintah and Duchesne counties, has seen 223 positive COVID-19 cases to date.

The rolling seven-day average for positive tests in all of Utah is 404 per day, while the percent positive rate is now 9.1%. Gov. Gary Herbert, who will address Utah’s COVID-19 situation during a news briefing on Thursday, has asked Utahns to work to keep new cases below 400, which would show the state has some control of the outbreak.

The health department reported another three deaths due to COVID-19, as well on Wednesday, including two Salt Lake County men between the ages of 64 and 85, one of whom was hospitalized and the other a resident at a long-term health care facility at the time of their deaths. The latest deaths also include a woman older than 85 who was a resident in Washington County and was hospitalized when she died with COVID-19.

There have been a total of 427 deaths caused by the disease, which results from the novel coronavirus that began spreading around the globe late last year.

Currently, 116 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 throughout Utah.

The health department estimates that 47,084 cases are recovered, having surpassed three weeks without death or hospitalization.

For more information and data on COVID-19 in Utah, visit coronavirus.utah.gov.