Jul 07, 2020 11:00 AM

When the Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) Cancer Screening and Education Bus began operations in August 2019, no one could have foreseen the mobile clinic would be used for something else entirely the following spring. But when the coronavirus pandemic hit, cancer screening on the bus came to a halt in order to prevent community spread of the virus.

Meanwhile, as COVID-19 cases increased along the Wasatch Front, University of Utah (U of U) Health began Utah Health and Economic Recovery Outreach (HERO). This program set out to test 10,000 Utahns for the presence of coronavirus and coronavirus antibodies—which show probable past infection with the virus—to get a better idea of the rate of infection in Utah and which groups were being affected most. Using the bus for Utah HERO made perfect sense.

The Cancer Screening and Education Bus joined University of Utah Health’s Wellness Bus to bring pop-up testing sites to designated neighborhoods throughout Utah, Davis, Salt Lake, and Summit counties. The bus served as a command station, supplying Wi-Fi, power, refrigerators, and centrifuges. HCI staff, who usually assist patients with mammography screening, were temporarily part of the Utah HERO team.

screening bus

“We began testing at 8 a.m. every day, seeing anywhere from 75–150 patients an hour,” says Rebecca Miner, a patient coordinator at HCI. Health care workers drew blood and collected nasal swabs from patients in tents set up outside the bus. The samples were delivered to the bus, where they were documented and prepared to be taken to ARUP, the lab that processes specimens for the U of U.

“We would spin down the blood samples in centrifuges that we had on the bus, making it quicker for ARUP to process them,” says Miner.

“Our days usually ended around 7 p.m.,” she adds. “They were long days, but the number of samples we were processing made them fly by.”

During May and June 2020, the Cancer Screening and Education Bus helped support no-cost COVID-19 and antibody testing for more than 7,500 people. The bus is now set to resume mammography screening.

Lynette Phillips, manager of mobile cancer screening, says her team was more than happy to help with the testing efforts. “We were privileged to serve the community during this crisis.”
screening bus group

covid-19 coronavirus

Cancer touches all of us.

Share Your Story