Since the COVID 19 virus became a part of our reality, one of the stumbling blocks for healthcare workers was inadequate testing materials to determine who has the virus, especially when they are still asymptomatic.

Now, Missoula County Health Officer Ellen Leahy says there are sentinel testing materials available, specifically for those who need to be tested.

“We are under the governor’s enhanced testing plan,” said Leahy. “We’re getting prepared to offer much more enhanced testing, Some of that testing is to give us more of an early warning system and catch people really early, or perhaps even bore they have symptoms of the disease.”

Leahy listed some of the categories of people eligible for this new sentinel testing protocols.

“First responders, such as law enforcement, EMT’s, paramedics, ambulance and other first responders,” she said. “Front line grocery checkout folks, people in the service industry, restaurants, bars, people in the salon or personal care practices. Those are the people who will be eligible to be tested without having symptoms, and that way, we will be able to tell if we are getting more cases.”

Leahy said these tests are purely voluntary, and can be carried out at the Health Department’s mobile testing centers.

“We will be doing those by expanding our Fairgrounds clinic that the Health Department is operating, those are drive through,” she said. “Others will be done in the other setting such as long term care, hospitals and healthcare provider settings or in the detention center. For testing call 258-INFO and you may get a same day or a next day appointment at the drive through. It only takes about eight minutes, that’s what we have it down to, about eight minutes at the drive through to get that.”

Leahy said test results usually come back in about 48 hours.

The state of Montana is in Phase Two of the reopening schedule sat by Governor Steve Bullock.