July 28 drive-through testing in Columbus cancelled

Thursday, July 23, 2020

The scheduled July 28 drive-through COVID-19 testing of asymptomatic Stillwater County residents is cancelled due to the extended amount of time it is now taking to get results back.

Montana labs can process approximately 7,000 tests a day, said Stillwater Community Health Nurse Natasha Sailer.

With the substantially stepped-up testing efforts that have taken place during the last month, that 7,000 mark can be reached in a matter of a few days. For example, from Sunday through Tuesday, 7,843 tests were administered, according to the Governor’s Coronavirus Task Force.

Montana has been relying on large, out-of-state labs for asymptomatic screening help, but so have a number of other states. Specifically, Sailer said there are up to 10 other states using the lab that Montana public health officials are also utilizing.

“Public health requires a prioritization of testing (and) asymptomatic screening is in the lowest priority tier at the state level due to resource limitation and importance of testing symptomatic individuals and other priority tier levels,” said Sailer.

The result is testing results coming back three to four weeks after submission.

In addition to the time factor is a sharp increase in contact tracing that was caused by the asymptomatic testing. Sailer explains that when someone tests positive for COVID-19, contact tracing is done to identify where the person most likely contracted the virus and who else might have been exposed. Those contacts are all now required to be tested, which contributes to the growth in tests being received at the state. This new requirement to test the immediate contacts over the past month and a half in direct relation to increased capacity at the state level to perform the testing.

Contact tracing in one local case involved 30 contacts in 1.5 days — with all but seven being out of county, said Sailer.

The results of the first drive-through testing are back and revealed no positives for any of the 72 Stillwater County residents who took part.