State to partner with MSU on testing

by CHRIS PETERSON
Editor | July 29, 2020 5:00 AM

In a deal with Montana State University and a North Carolina company, Montana should start asymptomatic coronavirus testing again this week.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock Wednesday said the state will partner with MSU in the next few days to do about 500 tests per day. MSU could pool testing, which mixes four samples together at once. If they come back clean, no further tests are required. If it’s positive, then the four are re-tested individually.

The state is also in talks with Mako Labs in North Carolina to do testing as well. The lab could do about 1,000 tests per day, state officials said during a press conference last week. A standard test, whether its done by MSU or Mako costs about $100 per test, Gov. Steve Bullock noted. MSU is not expected to profit, however and the cost could be adjusted.

Asymptomatic testing typically hasn’t found a lot of people with the virus. Earlier rounds of testing done in Flathead County didn’t find any, and Bullock noted that asymptomatic testing on the Crow Reservation would typically have two or three positive cases for 1,500 tests.

That doesn’t mean the virus isn’t spreading.

In the past six days Montana added 673 cases. Flathead County had 78 active cases as of Tuesday.

Statewide, 61 people are hospitalized and there are 1,244 active cases. About 2,090 have recovered since the pandemic started in March.

Over the past four weeks Montana has done 62,500 tests, Bullock noted. The state’s goal is to test 60,000 a month.

Folks are still required to wear a mask in public places and outdoors where socially distancing isn’t possible. That directive from the governor may be starting to work. On Sunday, the state reported just 41 new cases, the lowest number since July 7.