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Lewis & Clark Public Health: Expect longer waits for COVID test results

COVID Testing
Posted at 5:18 PM, Sep 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-21 11:03:46-04

HELENA — Public health leaders say it’s again taking longer for people to get results from their COVID-19 tests – and that’s having an impact on how they’re able to respond to new cases.

Laurel Riek, administrator of Lewis and Clark Public Health’s Disease Control and Prevention Division, says they have definitely noticed longer wait times in recent weeks.

“When I was talking to our nursing supervisor this morning, some of them can be as much as a week delayed in getting back to us,” she said.

Riek said the processing laboratories are simply dealing with a lot more tests. In the last few weeks, the state of Montana has reported an average of well over 5,000 COVID tests are processed each day.

For LCPH, the wait for a positive test is the first part of their contact tracing protocol.

“Once we get notified that someone is positive, then they would get a call from our contact tracer and be given some guidance on isolation and what that means, and how to protect themselves and their family and the community, so it’s a really important piece,” said Riek.

Local contact tracers have already been under pressure from the latest wave of COVID-19 cases.

“We have had an opportunity to hire on some additional help, so that has been alleviated to a certain extent, but we are still hiring, trying to get some rest for our nurses,” Riek said.

With the wait for test results growing, one other option could be rapid testing – but that may not be easy either. MTN has spoken to managers at several stores that carry rapid COVID tests, and they say they’ve been selling out almost immediately.

Riek said, with case numbers continuing to rise across Montana, they’re asking people to keep taking steps to stay safe – even before they get their COVID test results.

“The message is always the same: get vaccinated when you can, stay home if you’re sick, stay home until you get those test results back, wear a mask in public indoor spaces,” she said. “Those things will protect this community.”

You can find up-to-date information on COVID-19 in Lewis and Clark County at LCPH’s online COVID hub.