On Friday, Missoula City County Health Department officials held a press briefing at the County Fairgrounds to reveal the new Sentinel system that will provide COVID 19 testing for asymptomatic health care and other essential workers in the community.

COVID 19 Incident Commander Cindy Farr described the new testing center.

“At the press conference today, we were talking about our asymptomatic testing plan,” said Farr. “As a lot of people know, the governor and the DPHHS, the state health department, put forth a request for all of the different counties to start doing some asymptomatic, or what we call sentinel surveillance testing.”

Farr explained the purpose behind testing asymptomatic people, or those who do not have any COVID 19 symptoms.

“What we want to see is how much low level asymptomatic transmission of COVID 19 might be happening in our community,” she said. “Today, we announced our plan and talking about how we really had to work closely with all of our community partners because we have a very lofty goal of testing from 1,600 to 1,800 asymptomatic people in our county every single week.”

Farr said there was no way the health department could accomplish this feat alone.

“That is a goal that we are never going to be able to reach with just our health department testing site, so we worked really closely with all our community partners including our two major hospitals, St. Pat’s and Community Medical Center, Partnership Health Center, some of our major surgery centers, Cost Care and a lot of our clinics just to try and figure how we can coordinate our efforts and share the load to make sure that we are able to make our goal of 1,600 to 1,800 asymptomatic people getting tested.”

Farr wanted to assure those who already have COVID symptoms will still receive top priority.

“We want people to know that our symptomatic people, those who are having symptoms consistent with COVID 19 are definitely our top priority and we will continue to test people who have symptoms at our fairgrounds testing location,” she said. “In addition, we will now also be able to start testing asymptomatic people who are front line workers.”

Starting on Monday, June 22, the County Testing Clinic will expand its operations by screening and accepting appointments for county residents that are not experiencing symptoms compatible with COVID-19 that have been in high-risk environments for viral exposure and transmission.