NORTH OGDEN, Utah — Officials at a Utah healthcare system say caretakers from a nursing facility brought a patient to a COVID-19 testing site on Sunday, but upon arrival found that the patient was dead.
"When the nursing facility's van reached the drive-thru testing tent, their patient was unresponsive, cold to the touch, and likely deceased," a statement from Intermountain Healthcare read. "The testing-site caregivers immediately called 911 but EMS workers could not revive the individual. Caregivers acted quickly and followed correct procedures. The testing center was fully staffed and there were lower testing volumes."
The patient was identified as a 71-year-old man.
Erin Goff, a spokesperson for Intermountain Healthcare, said she was unsure how long the man was waiting for his COVID-19 test.
Testing lines on Monday were very long, with dozens of cars spilling out onto the street because they did not fit into the clinic's parking lot.
Neal Berube, the mayor of North Ogden, is also a member of the Intermountain Healthcare Board of Trustees.
He did not want to speak on behalf of the hospital but called his initial reaction to the case "alarming" as he awaits more information.
"The line is quite long, which I believe is the case at most testing facilities today... the waits could be up to several hours long," Berube said.
Deputy Chief Jeremiah Jones of the North View Fire District said the patient was discovered in "cardiac respiratory arrest."
"Cardiac respiratory arrest is when you have no heartbeat and you're not breathing on your own," Jones said.
It's unclear how the 71-year-old patient died.
Cardiac respiratory arrest could be caused by complications from COVID-19 or a variety of other medical reasons, Jones said.
"We don't diagnose in the field," Jones said. "Our job is to just treat the symptoms that we see and the signs that we see. We don't make any diagnosis."
Berube said he believes the patient was seeking a COVID-19 test to prepare for an upcoming surgery.
"I think until an autopsy is performed, we probably shouldn't jump to conclusions," he said. "It would be very unfortunate to try to place blame on what happened here... the anxiety, the fear that's present in our community, it just gets compounded when we jump to conclusions."
When asked if there were enough staff members at the testing site to handle the number of patients, Berube said it's difficult for officials to plan ahead.
"Safety of patients and the community is number one. I believe that if additional resources are identified, then Intermountain Healthcare, following their values and their mission, that they would make sure resources are there," Berube said. "Any given day, you don't know how many patients are going to show up to get tested. It's not a pre-scheduling situation."
Intermountain reminds the public that "anyone who is seriously ill should call 911 for help or go directly to a hospital emergency room, not to a COVID-19 drive-thru testing center."
This story was originally published by KSTU in Salt Lake City.