The David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah and University of Utah Health have announced the start of Utah HERO (Health & Economic Recovery Outreach), a large undertaking that will begin with the testing of 10,000 Utahns across four counties. The data gathered will inform decision-makers in the state as they work to help keep residents safe and get people back to work.

As part of Utah HERO, households in Utah, Davis, Salt Lake and Summit counties will be randomly selected for participation in the study. Random sampling is a way to accurately determine how much COVID-19 has spread in Utah without testing every person in the state, organizers said.

Utah HERO team members will tag these households with a flyer or door hanger explaining the project. Field teams will then follow up with an in-person visit to gather information about those living in the residence and provide instruction on how to get tested. All those living in the residence who are 12 years and older will be asked to visit a testing site where they will receive two tests: PCR (swab test to detect presence of coronavirus) and serology (blood draw to detect antibodies). Antibodies to the coronavirus indicate probable past infection.

“A survey of this magnitude would normally take months to organize, but we’ve been able to move things forward in a couple of weeks thanks to all of our collaborators,” said Stephen Alder, director of field operations for Utah HERO and professor in the UofU Department of Family and Preventative Medicine. “The University of Utah is committed to serving the state during this difficult time and we hope this information will help our leaders make informed public health and business decisions.”

High levels of voluntary participation will enhance the accuracy of the study and will improve the ability to interpret results of COVID-19 testing, Alder said. Testing is completely confidential and no information on immigration status will be collected.

The Governor’s Office of Management and Budget contracted with the UofU to design and implement Utah HERO.

“This study is important because it is the first initiative to gain an understanding of statewide COVID-19 prevalence in Utah,” said Dr. Angela Dunn, state epidemiologist for the Utah Department of Health.  “This random sampling allows us to see a representative picture of the extent to which COVID-19 has spread in our community. This will enable us to make informed decisions about how to best move forward,” she said.

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