Flathead County sees massive increase in COVID-19 testing

COVID-19 testing
Posted at 8:08 AM, Jan 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-13 10:20:44-05

KALISPELL — People looking for a COVID-19 test in Flathead County expect longer wait times as the demand for testing has skyrocketed the last two weeks.

“Know that we’re working hard behind the scenes and trying to do the best to serve our community,” Logan Health Lab Supervisor Garrett Heide told MTN News.

The Logan Health Medical Center Lab sampled 3,057 COVID-19 tests last week, more than doubling the input from two weeks prior.

“Two weeks ago, we were at 1,500 and before that we even got down into the 1,200 area so, it’s definitely come back up,” added Heide.

Heide said the in-house molecular lab can sample several hundred tests a day, a resource that’s being pushed to the max during this COVID surge.

“Early on we just couldn’t handle the amount of testing that was coming in so, the state was a great resource but little by little we built up the infrastructure here to be able to handle anything the community can throw at us so, we’ve been able to basically reclaim all of that testing and then some,” said Heide.

Heide notes the increase in testing means those seeking a test should expect potential delays in appointment scheduling and lab results.

“With this surge we’re experiencing a lot of crowded places at the drive-up sites, at the walk-ins, basically everywhere," added Heide. "It’s important to note that there will be delays so, you might not see turn around times for up to maybe two to three days depending on the loads that we’re getting, the volume we have to get through and stuff like that can definitely delay it."

Flathead County Health Officer Joe Russell said the state reported 5,300 tests throughout Flathead County last week, a number that doesn’t include self-take-home tests. He also noted the increase in testing is encouraging as the best thing residents can do is tests if they’re feeling sick and begin isolation immediately.

“The folks that are testing because they’re symptomatic, good on them, this is what we need to be doing to control COVID right now, the best thing we can do is either vaccinate or isolate if you’re ill so, good on the system that we could ramp up that much testing,” said Russell.

Russell said the health department hopes to have additional free rapid-take home tests available at the health office as early as next week.

The Montana COVID-19 state tracking map shows there have been a total of 22,198 COVID-19 cases in Flathead County including 21,127 recoveries and 228 deaths. There were 78 new and 843 active cases reported on Wednesday along with three additional deaths.

A total of 43,733 county residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 representing 44% of the eligible population.