Drive-through COVID-19 testing coming to Columbus

Tuesday, June 23, 2020
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Drive-through COVID-19 testing will start June 30 in Columbus at the fairgrounds.

One-hundred tests will be administered twice a month between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on a first-come basis. Participants will administer the test to themselves through a nasal swab.

The testing is being made possible through the Montana Hospital Association’s donation of 200 tests per month, for sentinel testing said Stillwater Billings Community Health Nurse Natasha Sailer.

Sentinel testing is testing a group of the population that is not displaying any symptoms to see if there are any cases that are not being caught due to a lack symptoms. Then random samples are done later on those same groups to see if there have been any changes.

Those who take part in the sentinel testing will be encouraged to wear masks until they receive their results.

“At this point in time, there is strong evidence that the majority of this virus circulating in Montana is community spread.  That means that it is from one person to another.  Facemasks are utilized to protect others from ourselves if we are asymptomatic and prevent transmission,” Sailer told the News this week.  “There is strong evidence that if an asymptomatic patient has a mask on and is in contact with another non-infected person with a mask on, that the risk of transmission can be lower than 10 percent.  That helps us to stay safe, as well as keep others around us safe.”

Stillwater Billings Clinic Community Health issued the following press release late Tuesday, June 23:

Stillwater Billings Clinic Community Health is pleased to announce it will be conducting sentinel COVID-19 screens for asymptomatic (no symptoms) residents of Stillwater County.  The screens are part of a statewide initiative to test as many residents as possible to see if there continues to be spreading of the virus without indications or symptoms.

This screening is not an antibody screen and will not tell residents if they have ever been infected with the virus. It will show if someone is actively infected with the virus at the time of the screen.

Screens will be provided free of charge to Stillwater County residents.  There will be 100 screens completed and the screens will be offered on a first come, first serve basis.  Once all 100 tests are completed, the screening will be shut down for the day.

There will be no pre-registration or phone reservations accepted.  Due to allocated number of testing supplies, 200 screens will be performed monthly until health officials are no longer allocated the screening, or the state determines testing will no longer be necessary.

A drive-through screening area will be set up in Columbus at the “Little Metra” on Tuesday June 30, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. or until testing supplies run out. This will be a one-way screening process where vehicles will enter from East Fifth Avenue North and exit onto East Sixth Avenue North.  Dates and times for future screens will be made available to the public through the Stillwater Billings Clinic website, Facebook Page, and the Stillwater County News.

Any individual who would like a screen must have no symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, etc.) to be screened. If an individual presents with any symptom(s), they will be refused the screening and directed to their local healthcare provider to be evaluated.

All individuals that are wanting to be screened must be able to perform their own screening by inserting a swab into each nostril and swabbing the inside of the nostril as directed.  Once completed, information will be provided to all individuals as to what to expect in the form of an informational handout.  Due to the asymptomatic screening process, results can take up to a week to return.  If individuals are positive, they will be notified immediately by a public health official.

Once screened, it is strongly recommended that people wear masks in public until they have results and continue with social distancing practices including, but not limited to, the following: stay home when sick, wash hands frequently with soap and water or at least 60 percent alcohol hand sanitizer, cover coughs and sneezes with a Kleenex or elbow, and maintain social distancing recommendations as directed by the state of Montana.

While we have done relatively well as a county and state, we are still seeing an increase in cases as we open the state back up,” said Sailer in the press release. “We did expect some of these cases to occur with the phased reopening, however, we still want to ensure that our public is safe.  These screens can show us a real time picture of what is happening within our communities.  This can lead to early identification of those with newly developed cases and help to prevent the spread to others within our communities.

Sailer added a sense of urgency.

“I can’t urge the communities enough to continue their practices that have become the new normal over the past few months: social distancing, grocery pick-up when available, limiting outings to areas with high infection rates, are a few things that can help.

These small things that prevent the community spread of the virus, combined with the bigger things such as hand-washing, staying home when sick, wearing masks in public, and coughing into your elbow are going to be our best defense to keeping this virus rate low in our areas.  Keeping our families, friends, and neighbors safe in the coming months.”

Any questions regarding testing and/or the testing process can call Community Health Services at 322-1070.  Please do not call Stillwater Billings Clinic with questions related to the community screening as you will be redirected.


Statistics from the Montana Communicable Disease Epidemiology and the United States Census Bureau


(Population estimate of 114,400)

- 216 cases, one death, community spread


(Population estimate of 161,300)

-129 cases, four deaths, community spread


(Population estimate of 13,300)

- 68 cases, three deaths, community spread


(Population estimate of 199,600)

-54 cases, one death, community spread


(Population estimate of 103,806)

-49 cases, two deaths, community spread


(Population estimate of 4,853)

-31 cases, six deaths


(Population estimate of 69,432)

-24 cases, community spread


(Population estimate of 10,725)

-15 cases


(Population estimate of 9,642)

– Four cases

*Community transmission is defined as a community identified case who are unable to be linked with other known cases or travel. This status has been determined after consultation between state and local health departments.


Of all the Montana cases, 12 percent have been hospitalized while 1 percent remain under investigation.


-0  to 9: 3 percent

-10 to 19: 7 percent

-20 to 29: 18 percent

-30 to 39: 18 percent

-40 to 49: 13 percent

-50 to 59: 15 percent

-60 to 69: 16 percent

-70 to 79: 7 percent

-80 and older: 3 percent


-Female: 51 percent

-Male: 49 percent


-Hospitalized: 2 percent

-Deceased: 3 percent

-Recovering: 20 percent

-Recovered and Released from Isolation: 75 percent