COVID testing event draws massive crowd amid rain
Last updated 7/13/2020 at 11:33am
Editor’s note: This version corrects who held the event.
Bullhook Community Health Center in partnership with the Montana Primary Care Association and the Montana Governor's Office ran an asymptomatic testing event at Havre High School that drew hundreds of people despite hours of off-and-on rain.
The event was organized so people would not have to leave their cars to be tested. Bullhook CEO Kyndra Hall, who was at the event along with a team of testers in full PPE, said people were lining up more than an hour early.
"They actually showed up at about 8:30 when we were setting up, and when we were set up, we started bringing people through and we were actually able to start a half an hour early," Hall said.
She said the first traffic director at the event counted a line of 110 cars, but that number rose considerably throughout the event, with nearly that many cars lined up down the length of Bullhook Drive SE, and continuing down Heritage Drive and a few hundred feet of 17th street before snaking through Havre High's parking lot.
Many of these cars had three or more people in them looking to get tested.
Hall said the wind and rain, which started shortly after the event's official start, was making paperwork more difficult, but she said they were able to keep the line moving efficiently.
"Everybody's been really friendly and thanking us for putting this on today ... We've had people moving through here pretty rapidly," she said.
Hall said, despite the recent crop of positive cases of COVID-19 in Hill County, she's still hoping the number won't go up after the results of the tests come in.
"We can hope for the best and hope they're all negative," she said.
Over the holiday weekend Hill County's number of positive cases jumped from one, which hadn't changed since March, to six and to 11 by the start of the event. This surge spurred many in the line to come to the event.
Hill County Health Department announced Wednesday night it now had 13 confirmed cases, the inactive March case and 12 active cases.
Toni TheBoy stuck near the end of the line on Heritage Drive about half-way through the event was one of them.
"The new cases brought me here," she said, "I thought we were doing pretty good as a county before."
TheBoy said she came earlier but left to see if the line would dissipate but returned to find little change.
"I came here once when it was way back there, so I left for an hour and came back because I thought it would go down, but when I came back it was in the same spot," she said.
Not everyone in line was there as a response to the surge. Richard Wynia said he wanted to contribute to the data that the health department and the governor's office will use from this event.
"I was planning on coming as a public service so they can get some more data," he said.
Pam Piche-Meyers, who came with her son to get tested, also expressed concern about the new cases.
"It scares me," she said, "We had one case back in, I don't know when it was, but all of a sudden, we've got 11 cases."
Piche-Meyers said she thinks it's really important for people to continue social distancing and wear masks, which she said, she's been making since the pandemic came to Hill County.
She said she was extremely pleased that this event was happening, especially given the surge.
"I'm so glad, I'm absolutely elated that they are doing this," she said.
Mike Belcourt, waiting in line for the event, said the surge hits particularly close to home for him as well.
"Those new cases are our neighbors," he said.
Hall said this morning that she was pleased with how the event turned out.
"I think, overall I think things went very well," she said, "... People were very patient."
She said a line of people still were waiting after the event's official end at 2 p.m. She said anyone who was still in line was allowed to get a test, so they ended up staying until 3 p.m.
Hall said 536 tests were conducted at the event, and the rest would go back into the stock for in-house sentinel testing.
She said the turnout indicated that there was demand for another testing event which would be discussed in a meeting Friday.