Thanks to government-funded programs, at-home Covid-19 tests are now easier to come by. The Madison County Public Health Department recently received 1,877 two-test kits from the state which are now available at the MCPHD office in Virginia City as well as the Ennis Pharmacy and Mac’s CHC Pharmacy in Sheridan. Tests are also available at

According to MCPHD Director Emilie Sayler, the goal is to have a test kit in every county household, noting at the Feb. 1 Madison County Commissioner meeting that Omicron is spreading rapidly, albeit often with little to no symptoms and with symptoms lasting briefly. These tests, she said, are especially helpful for those that have recently had close contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus.

Sayler did ask that anyone picking up a test, that’s either symptomatic or who shares a household with someone that is, should call ahead to the health department or pharmacy to set up contactless pickup.

“It’s alarming, the number of people who will come directly into the office while they are actively sick or someone in their household is sick,” Sayler told commissioners. “We want to reduce those potential exposures.”

Reporting changes on the horizon

Following advice handed down from the state health department, MCPHD will shift to online case investigation next week.

Prior to the shift, when a county resident tests positive for Covid-19, they’ll receive a call from the health department for a data collection interview. In the new scenario, covid-positive individuals will receive a link to an online survey which will go to the county health department and ultimately to the state database.

The change, said Sayler, will dramatically reduce her already overloaded staff’s phone time, clearing more time for thorough data input, and most importantly, allowing the department to focus on contacting the county’s highrisk population.

If a person doesn’t complete the online survey, the health department will still follow up via telephone.

“It seems that this is probably our best bet in transitioning from pandemic response to covid to endemic response to covid,” said Sayler. “It’s really going to help us to work this into our new normal, daily workflow.”

The more readily available home tests and updated reporting guidelines come as the state reports a pandemic record-high number of active cases to start out February. Locally, a full quarter of Madison County covid tests are coming back positive.

Sayler stated that while the county reports low active cases (just 41 as of Feb. 2), she expects that number to climb in the coming days due to a lag in at-home positive tests getting reported along with a fax machine outage over the weekend. 

First Madison County COVID-19 case

Madison County’s first COVID-19 case was confirmed. 

The woman and her family have been isolated. The confirmation is not a surprise to local healthcare providers. As testing becomes more available, more confirmations are likely to follow. This does not mean that everyone who has coronavirus symptoms will or should be tested.

Empty shelves

Even before the coronavirus was ever confirmed on Montana soil, Madison County was feeling the effects. The grocery stores in Ennis, Twin Bridges and Sheridan have all been experiencing unprecedented demand, particularly for sanitizers and paper products.

Hardship Fears

The coronavirus has dealt a major blow to the economy of southwest Montana. The enforced closure of all bars and restaurants along with the decision by many small businesses to shut up shop, means added pressure on an already struggling workforce. That coupled with the threat of illness is putting added pressure on many low income families.

Coronavirus in Madison County?

Madison County is on the brink of confirming its first coronavirus patient. A number of people have contacted the Madison Valley Medical Center with COVID-19-like symptoms. At least one has been tested for the virus and doctors are awaiting results from the state laboratory in Helena.


More Information

The Madisonian

65 N. MT Hwy 287
Ennis, MT 59729

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