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

Missoula County Opens Limited Drive-Thru COVID-19 Testing Clinic

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Missoula health officials have announced a new drive-thru COVID-19 testing clinic. It’s one of several recent steps by counties in the state to set up new testing abilities to identify the novel coronavirus. But the new Missoula site isn’t open to just anyone who wants a test.

Missoula health officials tested four patients Saturday at the new drive-thru test clinic at the county fairgrounds.

COVID-19 Incident Commander, Cindy Farr describes it as a dry run.

"It was an opportunity for our staff and our nurses to set up the testing service and try out the drive-through idea. It went very well."

So well that Missoula County’s new COVID-19 Testing Center opens Tuesday.

But the service is only available to a very specific set of people with symptoms including fever, coughing and shortness of breath.

"It is an appointment-based testing service. The way it works is you call 258-INFO. You would be able to have a chance to talk with a nurse. Testing supplies are still limited. So, right now we are limited to testing people who fall into the Priority 1 and Priority 2 categories."

"Priority 1" patients include health care workers and existing hospital patients. Priority 2 includes first responders, patients in long-term care facilities and those who are 65 years of age and older – all who must be exhibiting symptoms.

In Yellowstone County, health officials announced late last week the start of a mobile testing unit to take samples from residents at long-term care facilities. Officials say the testing van can also take samples from group homes.

Health officials say they prioritize older patients for testing because adults 65 and older are at higher risk for severe illness.

Drive-up testing is used in several other Montana cities including Libby, Helena and Bozeman.

Edward O'Brien is Montana Public Radio's Associate News Director.
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