At a press conference at the Missoula City Council Chambers on Monday, the City County Health Department announced an appointment-only drive through testing clinic has opened at the Missoula County Fairgrounds.

Incident Commander Cindy Farr said the agency conducted a ‘test run’ of the drive through clinic on Saturday at the fairgrounds.

“We saw four patients,” said Farr. “It was an opportunity for our staff and our nurses to set up the testing service and try out the drive through idea. It went very well, and we are now ready to launch an opening as of tomorrow (Tuesday). It is an appointment based testing service.”

Farr described the process that will be followed at the drive through site.

“You call 258-INFO (4636) and you will talk with a nurse, however testing supplies are still very limited, so right now we are limited to testing only those who fall into the CDC’s priority one and priority two categories,” she said. “That includes people who are healthcare facility workers who are having symptoms, patients in long term care with symptoms, patients who are 65 or older with symptoms, patients who have underlying health conditions such as cardiac or respiratory conditions that put them at risk and also first responders who are having symptoms.”

Farr said that testing supplies are expected to be coming in to Missoula on a more regular basis.

“As our supplies increase, our ability to test more people in other priorities will also increase, but until then it is important that people call 258-INFO and we will start seeing patients tomorrow (Tuesday),” she said. “Basically, we’re having people do their own swabs in order to keep from exposing our healthcare workers that are on the scene. It’s a mid-turbinate swab, meaning they give you a little Q-tip and they explain how to stick it in your nose, swirl it around and hold it there for a certain amount of time, and when you’re done with one side then you do the other side. Not only does that protect our healthcare workers, but if at some point you become uncomfortable then you the patient are in control of the swab. Then you are given instructions as to when you can expect your test results, and you drive on out.”

Others who spoke included Joyce Dombrouski, Chief Executive at Providence St. Patrick Hospital and Dean French, CEO of Missoula Community Medical Center. Both said their overall census numbers are low enough that they are not being overwhelmed at this time.

As of the writing of this article on Monday afternoon, there are 319 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Montana with six deaths reported, including one in Missoula County over the past weekend.