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Virus Tracking

2,419 tests administered during 4-day event

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LAKE COUNTY – Organized by the Lake County and Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Unified Command Center, the free COVID-19 testing event held across the reservation last week was part of a four-day, four-town cooperative effort among state, county and tribal agencies to slow the spread of the resurging coronavirus. 

“Any one of these cars could be the start of a potential cluster,” said Governor Steve Bullock during his Thursday morning visit at the Pablo testing site. “Making sure everyone can get tested to ensure that we are on top of this as much as possible is so crucial. Testing like this is an important tool in helping us find new cases to limit the spread.”

Although the official start time was 10 a.m., residents started pulling up in their vehicles as much as an hour early at the drive-through testing station entrance in Pablo. Participants didn’t have to leave their cars to be tested. 

The process involved driving through several check-station stops. At one check station, test seekers received consent forms from volunteers, and at another station, the forms were discussed with healthcare providers. Drivers continued to the next station for a swab test. Testing personnel were fully equipped with personal protective equipment. The whole process culminated at the final check station where drivers received information on the 2020 U.S. Census.

Lake County-CSKT Unified Command Center operations chief Greg Gould said funding for the testing event came from the Coronavirus Air, Relief and Economic Security Act, and 4,000 tests were available. The first round of testing was held in Arlee at the powwow grounds on Wednesday. The second event was at the Salish Kootenai College on Thursday. On Friday, the event was in Polson at the high school parking lot, and on Saturday, the event was at the Elmo powwow grounds.

Gould said a total of 2,419 swab tests were dispensed. In Pablo, 1,013 free tests were given. In Polson, 532 tests were given despite an early end time due to a thunderstorm. In Arlee, 474 tests were done, and in Elmo, the number was at 466. Gould said test results are typically ready seven days after testing. 

About 50 workers with different healthcare agencies administered the tests. “The cool thing about this is everyone is working together,” said Bullock. “You have two different hospitals, county health, tribal health and the Montana National Guard all working together.”

While on his visit, Bullock reiterated the need to maintain social distancing, frequent washing of hands, and he encouraged people to wear a mask.

As of Monday, with last week’s 2,419 tests still being analyzed, Lake County reported a total of 10 positive COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic.

If anyone missed the testing event, tests are available at St. Luke Community Healthcare and St. Joseph Medical Center. Lake County Public Health doesn’t provide testing. Tribal Health clinics in Polson and St. Ignatius also provide COVID-19 testing for tribal health recipients.

LCPH advises people to call ahead to make a COVID-19 testing appointment and to receive guidance on testing protocols. For questions or concerns, Tribal Health has a Coronavirus Call Center set up to take calls Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 406-849-5798. Questions or concerns can also be sent to COVID19@cskthealth.org 

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