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The latest news about the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 in Montana.

Yellowstone County To Create Centralized Testing For COVID-19 Illness

The novel coronavirus.
The novel coronavirus.

Yellowstone County Commissioners have approved a centralized community-testing site at the Sandstone Building at MetraPark in anticipation of public demand for testing for the COVID-19 illnesses.

The facility is not yet open and no dates were mentioned in a Saturday press release from Unified Health Command (UHC), a coalition of area hospitals and the county health and emergency services departments. 

Billings Clinic and St. Vincent Healthcare will open interim testing sites for patients on Monday, Mar. 16.

Test kits remain in limited supply nationwide. Only licensed healthcare providers can request tests following a clinical assessment. People cannot self-refer for testing.

St. Vincent Healthcare’s site is in parking lot M, at the northwest corner of North 27th Street and 11th Avenue North.

Billings Clinic’s site is located in the former dialysis unit on the west side of the hospital building.

A woman in her 50s from Yellowstone County is one of four people announced late Friday to have tested positive for COVID-19 in state. The other positive cases are out of Gallatin, Silver Bow and Broadwater counties. All travelled to affected areas recently and are believed to have contracted the disease out of state.

The Yellowstone County woman is self-isolating and cooperating with public health staff at RiverStone Health, the county’s public health agency, according to UHC.

UHC wrote in a press release Saturday afternoon the woman was experiencing mild respiratory symptoms and was wearing a mask when she came to the Billings Clinic Emergency Department Thursday. She was not hospitalized and remains in isolation at home. UHC says public health nurses are following up with others who may have been in close contact with her.

“Knowing that Montana and Yellowstone County are now reporting cases of COVID-19, I urge people not to think that every cough, sniffle or fever means they are infected with the virus,” said John Felton, Yellowstone County Health Officer and President and CEO of RiverStone Health. “Everyone should already be taking everyday precautions like washing hands frequently, and staying home when sick.”

Felton urged people to practice social distancing and for people with potential respiratory illness to call their medical provider before visiting a health care facility in person.

UHC has not issued a recommendation to area schools to close. Felton says closure would be considered if there is a known case of COVID-19 associated with the school.

UHC is recommending that organizers and sponsors of large community gatherings consider postponing or augmenting plans with social distancing guidelines in mind. That includes ensuring a six-foot distance between people to block transmitting respiratory illnesses.

All UHC healthcare facilities have set up health information phone lines:

  • Billings Clinic HealthLine: 406.255.8400
  • St. Vincent Healthcare: 406.237.8775.
  • RiverStone Health Public Health Information line: 406.651.6415

Copyright 2020 Yellowstone Public Radio

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