Intermountain caregivers test nearly 300 students in two days to help prevent a COVID-19 outbreak at USU

When the Utah Department of Environmental Quality discovered evidence of COVID-19 lurking in the sewage near some on-campus residence halls, Utah State University quarantined 287 students and turned to Intermountain Healthcare to do some fast testing.


The North Cache Valley COVID-19 testing site team, which tested 287 USU students in two days recently.


Gena Christensen, RN

Brandon McBride, Logan Regional Hospital’s administrator, took a Sunday call asking for help testing the students. Caregivers working at the North Cache Valley Clinic COVID-19 testing site were planning to go home when the site closed at noon. Instead, they were asked to stay on for several more hours to help with the USU testing, says Gena Christensen, RN, the ambulatory nurse manager over clinics in Cache Valley.

They got the call to ramp up for the 287 students at 10 a.m. on Sunday and by 1:30 p.m. the students began arriving.

Gena, who provides clinical support for all the clinics in Cache Valley, says when she called Amy Davis, the InstaCare practice manager, to tell her about the situation, Amy was ready to help.


Amy Davis

“There was no question,” Gena says. “Amy said, ‘Okay we’ll do it. We’ll stay and figure it out.’”

“We had many caregivers who didn’t think twice about staying and working extra hours,” Amy says. “We also had several we called and came in on their day off to help. They know the importance of the work and wanted to help the team, the students, and the community. They took on the challenge and did an extraordinary job.”

Gena says the Intermountain Medical Group and Logan Regional Hospital redeployed caregivers to the testing site to help get the job done.


David Nielson

Most of the students were bussed over to the collection site, so the curbside collection process, which is designed around processing people in their cars, had to be quickly adjusted to meet the students’ needs.

David Nielsen, a continuous improvement consultant who works at Logan Regional Hospital, helped them figure out the most efficient way to collect the test samples from the students.

“David arrived right away and helped me with the process flow and setting up to test a large number of patients in just a few hours,” says Kris Larsen, assistant regional operations officer for the Medical Group’s Cache region. “Once the students started arriving, he was part of the team helping out wherever needed from coordinating flow to wiping down chairs between patients.”

Kris_Larsen_High Res

Kris Larsen

For two days, while local and national news stories circulated about the quarantine, 36 caregivers at the North Cache Valley Clinic kept the testing going at full speed so USU would know how to best keep COVID-19 from spreading on campus and in the community, Gena says. By Tuesday, the USU students started getting their test results. Four asymptomatic students were identified as having the virus and moved to other areas to self-isolate, according to USU. 

USU’s President Noel Cockett sent a letter to the testing site team along with some USU swag, like lanyards and sticky USU notepads, thanking caregivers for the work they did.

“Your willingness to accommodate a large number of students in a short time period has truly contributed to reducing COVID-19 infection on our campus and in our community,” she wrote. “You are our heroes!”

“The caregivers at our North Cache COVID-19 testing site have tested thousands of patients and continue to evolve with each change and each ask, including this specific instance from USU,” Kris says. “They’ve seen rain, wind, hail extreme heat, and bitter cold. They’re carrying the large majority of COVID-19 testing in our valley and we owe them a big thank you.”

The Utah Department of Environmental Quality has been collecting sewage samples from 42 different sites in Utah and can detect the virus that causes COVID-19 if it’s in the samples, which in this case led to them identifying the need for student testing.