The long lines of vehicles on Tuesday, June 30, heading towards the now-vacant Glacier Peaks Casino were one obvious example of the Blackfeet Tribe’s expanding COVID-19 testing regimen. Coming on the heels of recently discovered cases in Glacier County and the reestablishment of the Tribe’s stay-at-home order for 14 days, testing and voting are two of the remaining places where people still gathered, albeit from the safety of their cars.
In all, some 908 people got tested that day at the casino. Following that event, 501 tests were administered at the old Eagle Shields on Wednesday, July 1, and on Thursday, July 2, 782 people were tested in Seville at the Discovery Lodge building for a grand total of 2,191 tests last week alone, according to Roberta Wagner of the Southern Piegan Health Center.
The testing team included members of the Montana National Guard, the Tribal Health Improvement Program, Southern Piegan Health Center and the Chief Mountain Hot Shots.
While tests at the start of the shutdown took only a few days to process, both the increase in testing and a spike in cases across the state has meant a longer period of waiting to see if yours has come out positive.
“Our lab and Qwest lab are running full with testing,” officials stated. “That is just the current situation as we expand testing across Montana.”
It is especially important to test as many people as possible to identify those who have the virus but are asymptomatic, not only to gain insight into the spread of the virus but also to permit isolation, quarantine and contact tracing. But even if a person tests negative, Southern Piegan Health Center is recommending they come in for retesting every two weeks if they do not believe they have come into contact with someone who is infected. And the testing is open to anyone.
If you think you have come into contact with an infected person, the recommendation is to immediately go into quarantine. Testing will then commence two days after the suspected contact because that is how long it takes the virus to appear.
While many have been tested, the goal is to reach still more, and through the rest of the month, Wagner says there will be testing in Browning on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and some Fridays, as well as outreach events in the outlying towns and villages.