MSU to process surveillance tests

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

HELENA – Montana State University began surveillance testing July 27, testing 500 people a day.

Gov. Steve Bullock announced the new source of surveillance testing July 22. The testing will be for critical front-line health care personnel, essential workers and other groups.

"Surveillance testing of asymptomatic individuals is a powerful tool in helping slow the spread of the virus in our Montana communities," Bullock said. "Montana State University has been an enthusiastic partner in helping find a Montana solution to our testing capacity and I am incredibly grateful for their partnership as we work together to protect the health of Montanans."

The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) will determine what Montana populations need to be tested for surveillance and then will ship the samples to a designated laboratory at MSU.

"As the state’s land-grant university, this kind of service and outreach to the people of Montana is what we are called to do," said Montana State University President Waded Cruzado. "Montana State University’s researchers have poured their creative energies into this project as well as other important endeavors that benefit the communities we serve."

Montana State University will use four qPCR machines to do the surveillance testing at the direction of DPHHS.

"This initiative is a step in the right direction and will serve us well in helping to detect the virus among asymptomatic groups of people so that we can take quick action to stop the virus from spreading," said Montana National Guard Major General Matthew Quinn, who is leading the Governor’s Coronavirus Task Force.

Bullock also announced that the state has finalized a contract with a reference lab, MAKO Medical in North Carolina, to begin processing an anticipated 1,000 tests each day from Montana. The state will take a measured approach to ensure a reasonable turn-around time in receiving back test results.