The Missoula City-County Health Department issued a press release on Thursday announcing that they will be winding down their COVID-19 testing services at the main Health Department office on West Alder.

Public Information Officer Hayley Devlin provides details.

“We're going to slowly wind down services over the next month and then we'll be closing our testing services come May,” said Devlin. “This decision came as we've seen a drop in demand for testing and we saw that many pharmacies and walk-in clinics are still offering testing and residents still have the opportunity to get free tests from the federal government shipped to their homes so we decided now would be a good time to bow out of the testing services.”

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Devlin said even though vaccination numbers are also falling, immunizations are still important for some groups.

“We've had some people coming in for their second booster doses at our Alder Street location and we're still going to provide COVID vaccines there,” she said. “There are still no plans to change that; however, I will say that I still want to get the word out. A lot of people still don't know that second boosters are out now for people aged 50 and older. Individuals who have had two shots of Johnson and Johnson, they're now eligible to get a booster of an MRNA vaccine, and then anyone 12 and older who is moderately severe immunocompromised is also eligible for a second booster.”

Devlin said the number of COVID-19 cases continues to drop in Missoula County.

“We're still doing great,” she said. “We haven't seen any new spikes or anything. Our average daily new cases per 100,000 people over the past week are only six, so cases remain pretty low. We only have 40 active cases in the county and, we're happy to see that. As of today we only have two Missoula County residents hospitalized.”

Devlin said the new Omicron variant has not been a problem in Montana.

“BAQ, that's the Omicron sub-variant that was discovered recently that's even more infectious than the original strain of Omicron,” she said. “In January and February we had a large spike of cases in Montana because of the Omicron variant, and then that variant mutated further. So in some areas, they had the sub variant that caused really big spikes in Hong Kong and Europe. But so far in America, we're not really seeing the effects of that sub-variant.”

Devlin said any announcement of when COVID-19 will be declared endemic instead of a pandemic will have to come from the federal government.

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Vaccinations for COVID-19 began being administered in the U.S. on Dec. 14, 2020. The quick rollout came a little more than a year after the virus was first identified in November 2019. The impressive speed with which vaccines were developed has also left a lot of people with a lot of questions. The questions range from the practical—how will I get vaccinated?—to the scientific—how do these vaccines even work?

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