Rapid tests identify two positive cases at Gardiner School

By 
Sam Klomhaus - Enterprise Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 3, 2020
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Livingston School District Nurse Holly Sienkiewicz administers a rapid COVID-19 test to Park High Junior Stella Davis at Winans Elementary on Tuesday. Davis was the first Livingston student to receive the rapid test. “You’re our guinea pig,” School Nurse Sue Harriman told Davis before the test. Enterprise photo by Sam Klomhaus

Park County’s new rapid antigen COVID-19 tests have identified two positive cases among students at Gardiner School, the Gardiner School District announced Tuesday.

The students are in isolation, according to a Gardiner School District press release, and contact tracing is underway.

Close contacts will be tested and receive quarantine instructions within the next 24 hours, according to the release.

“We are committed to providing on-site instruction at Gardiner School and classes will proceed as planned,” the release said.

The Livingston School District began testing symptomatic students with the new rapid tests Tuesday.

“Testing is certainly one of the important strategies we’ve been hoping to ramp up, so this is a good step,” Livingston School District Nurse Holly Sienkiewicz said.

Positive results from the tests can be trusted, but negative tests have to be confirmed with a different test, with both tests being performed on site at school, Sienkiewicz said.

Sienkiewicz said symptomatic teachers working from home can also be tested via drive-thru.

The rapid tests are available at all schools, Sienkiewicz said, and the Park County Health Department has said the district can have access to as many tests as it needs.

The test involves a nasal swab in each nostril, rotated a few times, which is inserted into a test card with some reagents, and the result is available in 15 minutes.

According to Sienkiewicz, the real benefit of the rapid tests is the Health Department can start contact tracing immediately instead of waiting longer for a positive result.

Sienkiewicz said the ultimate goal is to isolate and quarantine people as soon as possible to stop the spread of COVID-19.

The state of Montana reported nine new confirmed COVID-19 cases in Park County Tuesday, bringing the county to 295 total confirmed cases and 90 active cases.

Park County has not reported any deaths attributed to COVID-19, but according to the state, three people were hospitalized at Livingston HealthCare Monday, and the hospital was close to capacity.

There is no evidence of community spread in Park County at this time, according to the state.

Montana as a whole reported 909 new confirmed COVID-19 cases Tuesday. There have been 35,159 total cases confirmed by the state so far during the pandemic, 12,770 of which are active.

There have been 399 deaths in Montana attributed to COVID-19.