Older Utahns and those with underlying conditions should still be tested, Utah state epidemiologist Leisha Nolen advised.
The Cox Administration announced Friday that they are recommending Utahns with COVID-19 symptoms not get tested and instead stay home and isolate as the state faces a critical shortage of coronavirus testing.
“We recommend that people with symptoms should really stay home, pretend they have COVID and not necessarily need testing,” said Dr. Utah State Epidemiologist Leisha Nolen at a press conference in the Capitol. . “Instead of getting tested, instead of going outside and exposing more people, we recommend that anyone with symptoms stay home.”
Older adults and those with underlying conditions should still be tested, Nolen advised. From January 3rd Utah health officials advise residents to isolate themselves for five days after a positive test or showing symptoms if symptoms have improved. After isolation, it is recommended that people wear a mask for another five days.
“If you’re older, we still recommend getting tested so you understand your risk,” she said.
To maintain testing, the state is also temporarily suspending its Test to Stay program, which requires COVID-19 testing for students in schools who encounter an outbreak. State lawmakers on Thursday recommended taking a break from state laws Test to stay program.
“We have faced operational challenges as more and more students, faculty and staff have had to stay home to either recover from COVID,” said Sydnee Dickson, head of state for public instruction. “These numbers, as you have heard, continue to rise and action must be taken to ensure our schools remain safe and functional.”
The announcement comes after education leaders in Utah announced on Thursday that they would temporarily allow children to learn online as schools deal with COVID-19 outbreaks. The Utah Department of Health reported a mind-boggling 12,990 new COVID-19 cases, aggravated by the omicron variant. The state also reported Thursday that 3,007 school-age children had tested positive for the virus.
“The virus has changed significantly,” Cox said at the press conference.
He said the value of testing has changed because tracing contacts to the current number of cases facing the state is “virtually impossible”. Still, state officials expect a backorder of hundreds of thousands of new COVID-19 tests over the next two weeks, Cox said.
“Because (omicron) is so much more contagious… a lot more of our nurses and doctors and those who work in the hospital get it even despite wearing a mask,” he said. “They catch ommicron.”
Cox urged Utahns to get vaccinated and boosted to protect themselves against the infectious omicron variant. He added that health officials are asking the public to wear N95 masks to protect themselves from the virus.
Last week, Salt Lake and Summit counties issued masking mandates as the state faces increasing cases of coronavirus. Days later, Cox exempted state-run facilities from the mask requirements, a decision denounced by Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson.
Cox said he expects the state to reach its peak in the case of COVID-19 within two weeks and the pandemic will soon enter an endemic phase.
Senate Speaker Stuart Adams, who was scheduled to speak at the press conference, was absent Friday after testing positive for COVID-19.
House Speaker Brad Wilson said COVID-19 was spreading rapidly in the community, infecting and affecting every Utahn.
“This pandemic has proved anything but predictable. We all recognize that, so we need to be very flexible and adaptable as we move through this current wave,” he said.