HELENA — Gov. Steve Bullock provided an update Thursday on the state’s COVID-19 testing efforts.
He says that Montana continues to scale up testing to prioritize vulnerable populations and perform surveillance testing in tribal and tourism communities.
“We’ve put into place testing protocols to understand how prevalent the virus is in communities. Test widely and frequently with the goal to stay ahead of a major outbreak,” said Bullock. “These actions have supported our efforts to stay open, but to continue this path we all must remain committed.”
The state has tested more than 3,600 staff and residents in nursing homes and assisted living facilities across Montana. No positive cases have been found so far. Of the 71 long term care facilities in the state, 50 have completed testing of residents and staff, as well as 51 of the 217 assisted living facilities
Two inmates at Montana Women’s Prison in Billings tested presumed positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday. All staff and inmates and staff at the prison have been tested, and results are pending. Quarintine protocols have been implemented at the prison to reduce any potential spread.
Seven of Montana’s tribal nations have conducted community surveillance testing, with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes beginning testing next week. Through community surveillance testing and contact tracing, Big Horn County found 43 new cases, one of which resulted in death.
Testing will also increase in Montana’s tourism destination communities in the coming week. Red Lodge will offer free testing Friday and Saturday and are working with their frontline workers to get tested. West Yellowstone, Gardiner, Livingston, and Whitefish will begin the expanded testing next week.
Gov. Bullock cautioned that while there is no large community spread of COVID-19 in the state at this time, nine other states have seen a spike in hospitalization since Memorial Day, and many others have seen an overall rise in cases. More visitors are expected to be coming to Montana this year.
Gov. Bullock asks that every visitor and Montanan continue to be vigilant and practice social distancing and good hygiene whenever possible.“To continue this path, we all must remain committed,” said Bullock. “The virus is certainly still here with us and we must keep learning how to live with it and mitigate its spread.”