MISSOULA — The Missoula City-County Health Department (MCCHD) has announced that much of its COVID-19 response activities will now be automated.
The changes include a shift from quarantine orders to recommendations for most close contacts in order to improve the efficiency and speed in getting information out to people who have been exposed to the virus.
According to a news release, the changes are being put in place "based on recommendations from community members and in response to the continuing case numbers due to the delta variant." The Health Department will text all patients their COVID-19 test results and will begin case investigation and contact tracing by texting patients web forms to fill out by the end of the week.
“Among the individuals we tested this new technology with, 60% returned all of their information completely via the web form,” says Brian Chaszar, MCCHD deputy operations chief. “This is going to make a huge impact on our ability to get information out to people much more quickly.”
“We have people in our community who want to be responsible and do the right thing, but it can be confusing to know what that is depending on their situation. This new approach supports our community members in taking steps to prevent the spread of this virus by tailoring instructions based on each individual’s responses on the form," Health Officer D’Shane Barnett added.
COVID-19 positive patients tested through the health department will get a text to a web form within 48 hours of taking their COVID-19 test. If patients don’t fill out their web form within 24 hours of receiving it, they’ll get a phone call from a case investigator.
Patients will also have the option while filling out their form to request a phone call from us. Patients will also be auto-enrolled in SARA-alert, the health department’s software that tracks patients’ symptoms while they are in isolation.
The health department states the goal is to text close contacts within 24 hours of receiving a positive patient’s fully filled out web form. Close contacts will be asked a series of questions in their web form and given and appropriate recommendation for quarantining based of their answers.
MCCHD was reporting 35 new COVID-19 cases on Monday along with 2,882 active cases. To date, a total of 15,904 cases have been confirmed in Missoula County including 12,862 recoveries and 160 deaths.
The Montana COVID-19 tracking website shows 69,479 Missoula County residents are fully vaccinated representing 66% of the county's eligible population.