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. 

Vaccine update from RVMC

At the end of December, the State of Montana released an Information Sheet through the Montana Health Alert Network. The information sheet communicates direction for healthcare and public health entities in a phased distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines. This information was then updated on Dec. 31, but on Jan. 6, Gov.


As of Tuesday morning, Montana reported 834 new coronavirus cases, according to the Governor’s Coronavirus Task Force daily report.

Between Dec. 27-Jan. 4, Madison County reported 22 new cases, according to the Madison County Public Health Department. Twenty-one of the cases are active, and 88 community members are quarantined.

Tier 1A vaccinations

On Dec. 28 Madison County had 34 residents in quarantine and 13 active coronavirus cases. Two individuals are currently hospitalized, one new since last week.

Madison County Public Health Nurse Melissa Brummell explained the decrease in numbers corresponds to a decrease in the number of people getting tests.

Celebrate safely

From Dec. 13-20, Madison County reported 15 new coronavirus cases. Sixty-five residents are in quarantine and there has been one additional hospitalization. There are 46 active cases in the county.

Madison County Public Health Nurse Melissa Brummell provided tips for enjoying the holidays safely:

Drop in positivity rate

On Tuesday, Montana reported 803 new coronavirus cases, according to the Governor’s Coronavirus Task Force update.

According to Gov. Steve Bullock and U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, the Covid-19 positivity rate in Montana has dropped from a peak of 20% in November to 14% through Dec. 10.


More Information

The Madisonian

65 N. MT Hwy 287
Ennis, MT 59729

Cori Koenig, editor:
Susanne Hill, billing: 
Ad orders, inserts, classifieds: 
Comment Here