Missoula Health Department suspends COVID-19 testing services

The Missoula City-County Health Department issued a news release Thursday announcing that it would be suspending its COVID-19 testing services at the Health Department’s main office in West Alder.

The Public Information Officer Hayley Devlin provides details.

“We will slowly ramp down services over the next month and then close our testing services in May,” Devlin said. “This decision came as the demand for testing was falling and we saw that many pharmacies and outpatient clinics were still offering tests and residents still have the option of having free tests delivered to their homes by the federal government, so we decided to that now would be a good time to retire from testing services.”

Devlin said although vaccination numbers are also falling, vaccinations are still important for some groups.

“We’ve had some people stopping by our Alder Street location for their second booster shots and we will still provide COVID vaccines there,” she said. “There are no plans yet to change that; However, I will say that I still want to spread the word. Many people still don’t know that second booster vaccines are now available for people over the age of 50. People who have had two shots from Johnson and Johnson are now eligible for a booster shot of an MRNA vaccine, and then anyone 12 years and older who is moderately immunocompromised is also eligible for a second booster shot.”

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

“We’re still doing great,” she said. “We haven’t seen any new spikes or anything like that. Our average daily new cases per 100,000 people over the past week was just six, so cases remain fairly low. We only have 40 active cases in the county and we’re happy about that. To date, we have only two Missoula County residents in the hospital.”

Devlin said the new Omicron variant wasn’t a problem in Montana.

“BAQ, which is the recently discovered subvariant of Omicron, is even more contagious than the original strain of Omicron,” she said. “In January and February, we had a large number of cases in Montana because of the Omicron variant, and then that variant continued to mutate. 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 don’t really see the impact of this sub-variant.”

Devlin said any announcement as to when COVID-19 would be declared endemic rather than a pandemic would have to come from the federal government.

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