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Tentative date set for Hill County COVID surveillance testing


The Hill County Health Board met Friday and discussed the recent increase in cases and plans for sentinel and drive-through testing.

Bullhook Community Health Center CEO Kyndra Hall said Bullhook is working with Montana Primary Care Association and the Governor’s Office to do some sentinel testing and in the process of planning an open drive-through testing July 8.

More details will be published soon, she said.

Hill County Health Officer Jessica Sheehy reported Friday the state had seen an increase in confirmed cases, with 11 new cases of COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours before Friday’s meeting.

The state, as of Friday, had nine hospitalizations and 20 deaths, she said.

From June 10 to June 17, she said, there have been 69 new cases.

She said the state had 666 confirmed cases Friday.

That number had grown to 740 as of this morning, according to the state COVID-19 response map. The state also has suffered its 21st death due to the virus.

Sheehy added that 305 tests have been completed in Hill County with four pending as of Friday morning.

The state map showed no new cases in Hill County as of this morning, with one case reported in March still the only confirmation.

“Some of these numbers to a certain extent are to be expected as the state opens up, as there’s more what we’re calling sentinel testing or surveillance testing, which is testing asymptomatic people in the community, some of those positives are coming from there,” Sheehy said. “In the last month or several weeks, the CDC has changed the recommendations for screening so that now we do have more screening testing available when we get a positive case it is recommended that we test all of their close contacts, and so some of the positives that we are seeing across the state are from those close contacts testing.”

“Yes, we know we are going to be getting some more cases, we’re still encouraging everybody to be pretty vigilant,” she added. “... So it’s not necessarily coming from out-of-state or all due to travel. We’re just encouraging people to be vigilant with their hand hygiene and their traveling, restrictions and those types of things.”

She said more sentinel testing will be taking place and that Gov. Steve Bullock’s goal is for testing was 60,000 a month — 15,000 a week — and as of Friday about 11,000 tests had been completed.

The state is still working with local care centers and organizations who wish to be involved with sentinel testing and Timber Creek Village Assisted Living of Havre is believed to be part of that, she said.

Over the last couple of weeks, she said, the health department has been in touch with businesses and organizations who want to hold any events or have any questions or concerns about what it might look like for them.

Hill County Health Department Public Health Director Kim Larson said with the increase in cases, the state is watching Yellowstone, Gallatin and Big Horn counties because they are seeing community spread.

“We’re just watching those numbers closely,” she said. “As a caution to that, my health department, anybody who comes in for appointments, we are requiring that they wear cloth face covering just to help protect our employees as well as the people who are coming in, and we are wearing proper (personal protective equipment) when anyone enters our building.”

She said masks are also available to wear at the health department for anyone who comes.

Hill County Attorney Karen Alley said she has been working with Sheehy and Larson on enforcement processes and they have not had issues in the last couple of weeks.

Hill County Sanitarian Will Lorett said inspections are going well.

“Everybody is kind of used to the re-opening rules, at this point we aren’t having anybody confused about them,” he said.

The next COVID-19 update of the Hill County Board of Health will be held Tuesday, June 30 at 1 p.m. via GoToMeeting. https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/805108917,  or join by phone 866-899-4679 Access Code: 805-108-917 .


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