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Missoula County begins automating COVID services as cases continue to grow

An illustration of a text message alert.
Elena Lukyanova/Getty Images/IStockphoto
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An illustration of a text message alert.

As COVID case counts rise in Missoula, health officials are now automating more COVID services to help speed up contact tracing and test results.

A total of 150 new cases of COVID-19 were recorded in Missoula this weekend. In her weekly video update, Missoula COVID-19 Incident Commander Cindy Farr says 32 people in the county died of COVID-19 in the first 25 days of October.

“We had 19 deaths for the whole month of September. We’re seeing more deaths this fall than at any other point during the pandemic,” she says.

The Missoula City-County Health Department announced Monday it's automating more COVID-19 services to keep pace with the growing influx of cases. By week’s end the agency says it will text all patients their COVID-19 test results and will initiate case investigation and contact tracing by texting patients secure HIPAA-compliant web forms to fill out.

“We're just hoping that making some of these changes will help speed up our ability to get through the large number of new cases and close contacts that are coming in every day," Farr says.

The health department’s goal is to text close contacts within 24 hours of receiving a positive patient’s completed web form.

For those without access to technology, or who prefer to complete the process with a staff member, that option will remain in place.

Full details on the new automated process can be found here.

Copyright 2021 Montana Public Radio. To see more, visit Montana Public Radio.

Edward O'Brien is Montana Public Radio's Associate News Director.