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

Missoula County begins automating COVID services as cases continue to grow

An illustration of a text message alert.
Elena Lukyanova/Getty Images/iStockphoto
An illustration of a text message alert.

COVID case counts are rising in Missoula and health officials are now automating more COVID services to help speed up contact tracing and test results.

A total of 150 new cases of COVID-19 were recorded in Missoula this weekend. In her weekly video update, Missoula COVID-19 Incident Commander Cindy Farr says 32 people in the county died of COVID-19 in the first 25 days of October.

“We had 19 deaths for the whole month of September. We’re seeing more deaths this fall than at any other point during the pandemic.”

The Missoula City-County Health Department announced Monday its automating more COVID-19 services to keep pace with the growing influx of cases. By week’s end the agency says it will text all patients their COVID-19 test results and will initiate case investigation and contact tracing by texting patients secure HIPAA-compliant web forms to fill out.

“We're just hoping that making some of these changes will help speed up our ability to get through the large number of new cases and close contacts that are coming in every day," Farr says.

The health department’s goal is to text close contacts within 24 hours of receiving a positive patient’s completed web form.

For those without access to technology, or who prefer to complete the process with a staff member, that option will remain in place.

Full details on the new automated process can be found here.

O’Brien first landed at Montana Public Radio three decades ago as a news intern while attending the University of Montana School of Journalism. His first career job out of school was covering the 1995 Montana Legislature. When the session wrapped up, O’Brien was fortunate enough to land a full-time position at the station as a general assignment reporter. Feel free to drop him a line at
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