County plans new COVID drive-up testing

Governor orders new restrictions
By 
Sam Klomhaus — Enterprise Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 18, 2020

The Park County Health Department announced Tuesday drive-up COVID-19 testing will be available at the Park County Fairgrounds starting Thursday.

At first, the testing will be available only for close contacts who have had face-to-face direct contact with a known positive case, and then will branch out to symptomatic people in early December, Park County Health Department Health Promotion and Outreach Specialist Molly O’Neil said in an email Wednesday.

The drive-up testing will be available 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, O’Neil said.

At the site, the Health Department will be using PCR tests, which have to be sent to an outside lab, O’Neil said, and the department is looking into a more widespread use of rapid tests in the future.

O’Neil said the drive-thru testing will increase the county’s capacity to test close contacts, since people will not have to wait outside a testing center as they complete the testing paperwork.

The testing center announcement comes as Gov. Steve Bullock announced new restrictions during a rise in COVID-19 cases in Montana.

Starting Friday, restaurants, bars, breweries and casinos must close by 10 p.m. and will be limited to 50% occupancy, Bullock said in a Tuesday press conference.

“I’ve discussed before the economic challenges with further restrictions,” Bullock said. “And the lack of federal action and federal relief funds running dry would certainly make a complete lockdown an insurmountable task.”

In addition, public gatherings are limited to 25 people when social distancing is not possible, Bullock said.

Bullock also expanded the state’s face covering directive to cover all of Montana, not just counties with four or more active COVID-19 cases.

As of Wednesday morning, only Meagher County and Treasure County had less than four active COVID-19 cases. Bullock said the state is encouraging people to limit any gatherings with 15 or more people, even if they’re in a home.

“This virus won’t stop spreading through our communities anytime soon unless we take active steps to stop that spread,” the governor said.

Bullock said the state will use the remaining money from the CARES act for a $75 million round of business stabilization grants, with the added requirement that businesses that receive the grants comply with the state’s COVID-19 restrictions.

The state is also adding a benefit of $200 per week through the end of 2020 for people who have lost their jobs because of the pandemic, which will cost about $25 million, Bullock said, as well as $3 million to be spread around the state’s food banks.

The state of Montana reported 10 new confirmed COVID-19 cases in Park County Wednesday, bringing the county to 487 total confirmed cases, 188 of which are active.

Overall, Montana reported 1,232 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, bringing the state’s total to 50,582 confirmed cases, with 19,621 active cases. There have been 561 deaths attributed to COVID-19 in Montana.

For more information, call the Health Department COVID-19 information line at (406) 222-4131.