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Hundreds turn out for coronavirus testing in the Bitterroot

Posted at 6:48 PM, Jul 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-16 21:16:09-04

HAMILTON — Hundreds turn out for coronavirus testing in the Bitterroot on Thursday, searching for some peace of mind in the pandemic.

The Ravalli County Health Department was expecting a lot of interest in the first round of coronavirus screening to ever happen in the Bitterroot Valley. But it was a surprise to see a long line of cars already lining up before testing even started.

"Yeah, people were planning ahead and everybody was lined up here. By the time I showed up at 9:15 we had cars all around the parking lot. So there's been a great turnout," said Joe Hopkins, Public Information Officer for Ravalli County Health Department.

It's a scene you wouldn't have envisioned back in April, when the Bitterroot had only a handful of cases, and the pandemic's impact seemed worlds away. But on Thursday with a spike in positives and the community spread of the past month, there's more concern. While not everyone downtown is complying with Governor Bullock's masking order, weeks ago a mask sighting was rare.

"They do want some answers. And it's a great indication that they are taking it seriously. It bodes very well for the community that so many people are taking it serious and taking the necessary precautions," said Hopkins.

Residents told us they were waiting about 90-minutes in line, but once at the testing station, the process only took a few short minutes.

"It's a self-nasal swab. These tests will then be sealed and secured, put into a temperature controlled cooler. The National Guard courier at the end of the day is then going to transport those directly to the state lab," said Hopkins.

The test results will be processed with importance given to people who actually have symptoms, followed by those with asymptomatic conditions.

But all of the test results are important, giving Ravalli County Health authorities a snapshot of what's going on with the coronavirus here in the Bitterroot. But also adding to our knowledge of what the pandemic is doing statewide.

"This is going to give us a very good indication, a snapshot, which is exactly what the testing is called, our community snapshot. Snapshot in time of what the rate of infection and spread looks like at this moment," said Hopkins

But besides the data, the tests were about giving people answers in a time of uncertainty, with everyone being promised results.

"There is followup, absolutely. Anybody who tests negative is going to receive a letter to that effect in the mail. And positive tests are going to be contact directly by phone, by our public health nurses," said Hopkins.

It's expected to take a week or two for the test results to be processed. At this point we don't know for certain when more testing will happen.