In The Mountain West, Utah And New Mexico Lead In Coronavirus Testing

Apr 10, 2020

As the nation continues to lag behind on testing for the new coronavirus, Utah and New Mexico rank among the states that have administered the most tests per capita. 

That’s according to analysis by the Mountain West News Bureau of data provided by the COVID Tracking Project, a collaboration between journalists, data scientists and volunteers to track testing across the nation. (Numbers in the chart below will change as testing continues).

As of April 10, Utah and New Mexico were among the top ten U.S. states for testing, and each had given more than 1,000 tests for every 100,000 residents in the state. By contrast, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and Nevada sit in the middle of the pack, at more than 700 tests per 100,000 residents. And Colorado was in the bottom fifth for testing, coming in at about 500 tests per 100,000 residents.

As the COVID Tracking Project points out, not all states report all tests, so the numbers are not exact.

In New Mexico, there are about 50 testing sites across the state, and health officials recently widened their testing guidance to include certain asymptomatic people. The Santa Fe New Mexican is reporting the state’s high testing rate is partially because a private lab there, TriCore Reference Laboratories, is analyzing more than 1,000 tests a day for the health department. The publication New Mexico In Depth said the lab planned to be running about 2,400 tests a day by April 13.

Utah, meanwhile, partnered with a nonprofit representing startups there for a campaign called Crush the Curve. Residents can go to a website to enter their symptoms and receive a code to present at a testing site if they qualify. 

“Every expert we talked to said that Utah should be doing around 7,000 tests per day and I think with the combined efforts of all the different entities going at this, the idea is we’ll get there,” said Clint Betts, the executive director with Silicon Slopes, the aforementioned nonprofit, which partnered with the state to open a handful of coronavirus testing sites.

“The goal is to eventually get to 15 to 20 locations throughout the state of Utah,” said Betts.

Kris Cox, the executive director of the Utah Governor’s Office of Management and Budget, told Fast Company the state plans to begin doing randomized testing as well, to identify people who might be spreading the virus without showing any symptoms. 

In addition to back-of-the-nose tests that look for pieces of the virus circulating in people’s systems, blood tests are capable of showing if a person previously had coronavirus and then recovered. Such antibody tests have been touted as a way to reopen society because people deemed immune to the novel coronavirus could return to normal life. 

A county in southwest Colorado is one of few communities across the globe to offer blood testing to everyone. As the Mountain West News Bureau has reported, those results are now starting to come in and may help answer some big questions about the virus’ spread. At the same time, Los Angeles is starting to run blood tests on a random sample of 1,000 of its residents. 

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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