Free COVID tests, case investigations change in Beaverhead

By 
Casey S. Elliott
Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Beaverhead County Public Health will change its processes for COVID-19 case investigation and contact tracing, as more people are testing for the virus at home and have mild COVID cases.

Montana Department of Health and Human Services (DPHHS) officials urged the change statewide, as several scientific factors show a reduced utility and feasibility of universal COVID case investigations and contact tracing.

Those factors include a large number of asymptomatic and mild COVID cases from widespread vaccination and changes in the virus itself; that many infections are never identified by public health because of those cases (people often do not test with no symptoms); and increased use of home COVID-19 testing kits, which often do not get reported to public health; a shorter virus incubation period for the omicron COVID variant; and the fact that the highest risk of transmission to others occurs prior to symptoms appearing from a COVID case.

Beaverhead County will transition to a survey-based reporting system at the beginning of March. People who test at home with COVID home kits are strongly urged to fill out their results at hometest.mt.gov. People who get their test kits through public health are given an instruction sheet on how to report results. The sheet also includes a QR code which can be scanned by cell phones for quick access to the website.

Public health officials will continue to contact people by phone, prioritizing specific populations such as children aged 17 and younger, people aged 65 or older, hospital staff and patients, and long-term care and assisted living facilities.

Public health will distribute its free test kits throughout the county for easier access in rural communities. The kits are available over the next two weeks at the public health office (41 Barrett St., Dillon), and at Dell Mercantile, Ralph’s Exxon in Lima, the city of Lima, the Grasshopper Inn in Polaris, the Polaris Post Office, Jackson Hot Springs in Jackson, Goose N Bear in Wisdom, Wise River Mercantile, and Dewey Bar.