As students return to school on Monday, all Cache County residents will have the option of receiving a free rapid antigen COVID-19 test.
“The more testing you can do, the more information we have so we can make good decisions,” said Tim Smith, with Cache County School District.
Smith said while the plans for the testing sites have been in the works for a while, the timing is perfect.
“I think it will be good for schools,” Smith said, “because they’ll be able to test anybody who’s symptomatic or maybe people who traveled over the holidays and are curious, so they can know for sure before they go back to work or school.”
Though the new testing is not geared toward schools, the plan coincides with the dissolution of the former school option of “Low Risk Test to Return” antigen tests available to asymptomatic quarantined students and staff who were exposed in school, seven days post-exposure.
While the test-to-return tests were not available for those with COVID-19 symptoms, the new statewide testing is geared toward that.
“Antigen tests work best when someone has symptoms of COVID-19 or when a person has high amounts of virus in their body,” according to the state’s press release. “If an individual has symptoms and tests negative on the rapid antigen test or an individual doesn’t have symptoms and tests positive on the rapid antigen test, they will be referred for a follow up, confirmation PCR test.”
The release also stated “locations are chosen based on high positivity rates, lower numbers of tests conducted, untreated wastewater sampling, and other surveillance data.”
Logan City School District Superintendent Frank Schofield said it will be good for the state to get an idea of community spread after the holidays, especially as the vaccine rollout is underway and teachers and school staff aren’t likely to be inoculated against the virus until mid-to late-January.
As of Wednesday, the percent-positivity rating in the Bear River Health District was about 29.7% — almost one positive for every three people tested — which officials have indicated shows a high rate of untracked cases in the area, coupled with low testing numbers due to the holidays.
Schofield said it’s unlikely the new testing will negatively impact schools because schools moving to remote learning is determined by cases of school spread rather than community spread, and Smith agreed.
The Utah Department of Health will be offering the tests through February, starting with 21 different locations in 14 counties throughout the state, though Josh Greer at the Bear River Health Department said that number is expected to increase by the end of the week.
“BRHD will not be involved in the testing but we’re glad to have another testing option for our community,” he wrote to The Herald Journal.
UDOH is working with individual cities (such as Hyrum for Cache County’s clinic) as well as deployed members of the National Guard and the TestUtah organization to provide the testing.
Testing in Cache County will be conducted in the parking lot of the Hyrum Senior Center (located at 695 E. Main Street, Hyrum) from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday and from noon to 7 p.m. Tuesday.
“Anyone can get tested at these free testing clinics, even if they do not have symptoms of COVID-19. Anyone who wants to be tested can register online at https://coronavirus.utah.gov/utah-covid-19-testing-locations,” states the press release sent out by Jenny Johnson, with UDOH. “We also encourage anyone who might have any symptoms, even mild ones, to come and get tested.”
Utah County will offer four locations for testing — the highest number in the state — followed by three in Salt Lake County and two each for Davis and San Juan counties. The other counties in the first round of clinics will offer tests at one location each in Cache, Carbon, Duchesne, Emery, Grand, Juab, Sanpete, Tooele, Wasatch and Weber.