Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

COVID-19 Testing Is Up In Utah — But It’s Still Hard To Get One Without Symptoms

Photo of COVID Testing sign.
Tricia Bobeda
The state of Utah provides free COVID-19 testing to people with symptoms through its Test Utah program. It hopes to make that available to asymptomatic patients soon.

The surge in COVID-19 cases in Utah has coincided with an increase in testing for the virus. Statewide, 8,000-9,000 people are being tested each day, according to the state health department. That’s more than double the number of people who were being tested daily in August.

And while the surge in cases is bad, health department spokesperson Tom Hudachko said the increase in testing is actually good.

“The more testing you’re doing, the more accurate picture you’re getting of what’s happening in the community,” he said. “So, in our opinion, the more testing, the better.”

The state currently offers free COVID-19 testing through a program called Test Utah for people who have symptoms or have been in contact with someone who’s tested positive. It has 12 permanent testing sites throughout the state.

Utah is currently working to offer free testing to asymptomatic people through the program, according to Hudachko, who said he expects the state to announce that change in the next two weeks.

Until then, if you don’t have symptoms, you may not be able to get tested — or you may have to pay.

The state has partnered with the largest healthcare providers in the state — University of Utah Health, Steward Health Care and Intermountain Healthcare — to coordinate testing for the disease, and they all require the same criteria as Test Utah.

Dr. Anthony Wallin with Intermountain Healthcare said the reason they can’t test asymptomatic patients right now is because of staffing.

“We’re at our highest volumes of our pandemic right now, and that includes at testing sites,” he said. “How do you cover all of that with limited resources?”

Many smaller health clinics and hospitals throughout the state are providing testing to asymptomatic patients, but it usually comes at a cost.

The total cost for a test without insurance is $175 dollars at the Foothill Family Clinics in Salt Lake City. They are testing people regardless of symptoms, according to North Clinic operations manager Alauna Durfee. She said all health insurers are supposed to cover the cost of the test if a patient has symptoms, but without symptoms it’s not guaranteed.

“If they have insurance, we will bill it for them, and if [the insurance providers] don’t cover it, we will send them a bill,” she said.

She recommends people with insurance look up whether their provider will cover the test before booking an appointment, and said some people could also end up with a co-pay if they see a doctor as part of their visit.

In Southeast Utah, the Moab Regional Hospital will test asymptomatic patients, but the same caveats about insurance apply. They also charge $175 for an asymptomatic test without insurance. The cost stems from the type of tests the hospitals use, which are rapid tests that produce results in under 24 hours.

San Juan Health, which has clinics in Blanding and Monticello, is testing asymptomatic patients for around $35 dollars. Chief Operations Officer Jimmy Johnson said they are able to offer tests at that price because they are receiving the tests from the state.

Utah’s Health Department has compiled a map of all facilities that provide COVID-19 testing.

Kate joined KUER from Austin, Texas. She has a master's degree in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin’s Moody School of Communication. She has been an intern, fellow and reporter at Texas Monthly, the Texas Observer, Quartz, the Texas Standard and Voces, an oral history project. Kate began her public radio career at Austin’s NPR station, KUT, as a part-time reporter. She served as a corps member of Report For America, a public service program that partners with local newsrooms to bring reporters to undercovered areas across the country.
KUER is listener-supported public radio. Support this work by making a donation today.