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Park, Madison Counties To Resume Testing For People Without COVID-19 Symptoms

COVID-19 test kit.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
COVID-19 test kit.

Some counties in Montana will resume asymptomatic surveillance testing following a backlog at a national private lab.

Quest Diagnostics, a private lab in Denver, has cleared its three-week pile up of nasal swabs, and the state health department says it’s finding more labs to take samples. That’s according to a statewide COVID-19 update from the Governor’s office, Thursday.

More testing capacity means the Park County Health Department can host its third round of free COVID-19 testing for residents without symptoms on Aug. 9 at the high schools in Gardiner and Livingston from 10 A.M. to 4 P.M.

“It gives us a very good window into the trends in the community and most importantly, right now, it allows us to confidently open up our schools in the next few weeks if we get very good results with very little COVID-19 in Park County," says Laurel Desnick, health officer for Park County.

Health officials said a backlog at Quest Diagnostics delayed results from Park County’s last testing event on July 12th. One out of 1,200 tests came back positive and is under investigation.

Desnick says Park County has hundreds of thousands of tourists pass through its communities every month. The surveillance testing gives a one-day snapshot to see what level of COVID-19 is circulating undetected in the county.

Desnick says lab capacity has been a national problem during the summer’s surge of coronavirus cases, but she expects results from the Sunday event will come in next week.

“We waited, in fact, to run the event this weekend until we were confident that all the lab process was in place and that we would get a quick turnaround," Desnick says.

Montana is now using Mako Medical, a private lab in North Carolina, to run tests. It’s received more than 10,000 nasal swabs from Montana over the last two weeks. State health officials say they’re getting results in two to three days from the time of delivery.

Montana State University is also about to start running 500 tests per day.

“Which would be really neat. We don’t even have to go to Helena. Just 20 miles up the road, they run ‘em. We’re done," says Desnick.

Madison County on Aug. 12 will offer its second, free COVID-19 testing to asymptomatic residents at the public health department in Virginia City. Senior testing is from 3:00-4:30 pm; other community members are invited to come from 4:30-7:00 pm.

A Madison County health official told YPR nearly 380 people participated in the first community testing event July 10th. She said results back this week showed three people had COVID-19, two of whom did not have symptoms.