A free rapid testing program in Summit County has helped 385 workers shorten their quarantines
Public-private partnership has common goal of supporting local small businesses
A novel COVID-relief program, possibly the first of its kind in Utah, launched early this year, the result of a partnership among local governments, the business community and a nonprofit that all shared the common goal of trying to get local workers back to work.
The program aims to shorten the quarantine time for employees of small businesses in Summit County who have been exposed to COVID-19, providing free tests that are available on the seventh day of isolation so workers who test negative can immediately return to work.
According to the Summit County Health Department, as of Feb. 5, 418 people had received rapid tests through the program, with 385 of those people testing negative and thus able to avoid the otherwise mandatory 10-day quarantine.
The 33 people who tested positive for COVID-19 received appointments to receive a more accurate PCR test and were told to extend their quarantines.
“I have heard from several businesses that were able to open, able to get back to normal hours because of this,” said Jennifer Wesselhoff, president and CEO of the Park City Chamber/Bureau.
Assuming the employees are working eight-hour shifts, that’s more than 9,200 hours of work the program has enabled. That could add up to tens of thousands of dollars of wages, and for a business with a small staff, the program could make the difference between shutting its doors for three days or staying open.
Deputy Health Director Phil Bondurant called the program one of the “shining lights” during an otherwise challenging time.
“Although managing the pandemic hasn’t been easy, I am grateful for our community partners and their commitment to helping local businesses stay open,” Bondurant said.
The program arose after state officials changed quarantine guidelines to allow individuals who had been exposed to COVID-19 to return to work after seven days if they receive a negative test.
Wesselhoff said that Deputy Summit County Manager Janna Young came to her with the idea, offering to provide the tests and asking if the Chamber/Bureau would work to find a location, a health care professional who could administer the tests and funding, if necessary.
Wesselhoff said she coordinated with Beth Armstrong, the executive director of the nonprofit People’s Health Clinic, who enthusiastically agreed to arrange the testing personnel and location. Wesselhoff said the Chamber/Bureau kicked in $5,000 to fund the program, which was matched by Park City.
Summit County purchased the tests using more than $100,000 in federal pandemic-related aid, Bondurant has said.
The program helps end quarantines early, and does so without relying on hospital workers, who have been stretched thin by the pandemic. Wesselhoff said Young made it clear in the initial call that was one of the program’s goals.
“To alleviate a little bit of that burden from our health care heroes at the hospital, I think, is a really positive success story,” Wesselhoff said.
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