The COVID-19 surveillance testing drive through in Virginia City tested 376 asymptomatic people July 10.
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 https://www.covidtests.gov/.
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.
On July 8, 2020, Melissa Brummell, Public Health Director reported five new positive coronavirus since July 4 bringing Madison County’s positive cases to 20 including one death earlier in the season.
Madison County now has more active COVID-19 cases then it did before the statewide lockdown.
Surveillance testing will be available to people without COVID-19 symptoms from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. July 10.
Measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 are required for all events in Madison County.
Montana Governor Steve Bullock hosted a press call today to address the increase in positive COVID-19 cases, provide a testing update and lay out another Coronavirus Relief Fund offering for medium to larger businesses.
Private and public events over 50 people in the county will have to go through the Madison County Public Health Department, but expectations are unclear.
On Tuesday May 19 Gov. Steve Bullock announced Montana’s entry into Phase Two of the Reopening the Big Sky Plan, effective June 1.
A critical aspect of states’ phased reopening due to the COVID-19 pandemic is the ability to diagnostically test its populations. The ability to test Madison County’s small population appears to be on the right track.
Madison County embarked on another stage of Montana’s partially reopening economy May 4.