By Ashley Chase
Utahns are recommended to stay home and isolate without getting a test if they have symptoms of COVID-19, Gov. Spencer Cox announced in a press conference this morning. He also declared the “test to stay” policy will be on hold.
“These are temporary changes, but I think things that are really important to affect our public health actions here in Utah,” state epidemiologist Leisha Nolen said in the press conference.
These changes are made due to the lack of workers and tests in tandem with the rapid spread of omicron. Cox explained that the inherent purpose of testing, to trace points of contact for potential infection, is no longer possible with this new variant.
“By the time people are getting tested, they’ve already infected a whole bunch of people who have already infected a whole bunch of people,” Cox said. “Our ability to contact trace with numbers like this is just virtually impossible. So that changes the value of testing.”
Since Christmas Day, daily COVID-19 case counts in Utah increased from around 1,200 per day to more than 9,500 as of January 13. This led to an increase in tests, from 19,000 tests per day on Christmas to almost 48,000 this week.
“Government, as we all know, doesn’t get to decide how pandemics behave and how they spread across our state and across the world,” Speaker of the House Brad Wilson said in the press conference. “We’re trying to be as nimble as possible in order to address the current needs of the state of Utah. Trust me, none of us want to be here talking about COVID or viruses or masks or tests ever again, but it is the time we still need to be doing that.”
The increase has particularly been seen among children in school, where daily COVID-19 cases rose from 150 to about 3,000 since Christmas. Several schools have already switched to remote learning as higher numbers of students enter quarantine.
“We believe that by giving schools and staff a chance to pause and reset, as one school district put it, we can slow the transmission and we’ll be able to get our students back to their classrooms for a higher quality education in a safe and healthy environment,” Sydnee Dixon, the Utah Superintendent of Public Instruction, said.