In partnership with Big Sky Health Bozeman Medical Center
By Gabrielle Gasser EBS STAFF
BIG SKY – One million dollars have been set aside in Big Sky for the purposes of funding a COVID-19 surveillance testing program in the community.
The funds were officially set aside at the Oct. 28 Big Sky Resort Area District board meeting. The board unanimously passed a resolution committing $750,000 of BSRAD money as well as $250,000 in CARES Act funds pitched in by Visit Big Sky.
According to Daniel Bierschwale, the executive director of the Resort Area District, funding for the program will come from public, private and philanthropic support. He added that the program is aligned with other efforts from Big Sky Relief partners to respond to COVID-19.
BSRAD has worked closely with community members, businesses in the community, the Big Sky Chamber of Commerce, Visit Big Sky, state and local authorities, the Gallatin City-County Health Department, school officials and philanthropic organizations since the beginning of the pandemic to design a surveillance testing program.
A sub-committee was created, which included BSRAD board members Steve Johnson, Kevin Germain and Bierschwale, to reach a decision regarding which laboratory will be chosen to process the results for the surveillance program.
BSRAD will also work with the Bozeman Health Big Sky Medical center. The Big Sky Medical Center will administer the COVID-19 testing program.
The sub-committee hasn’t reached a conclusion regarding which laboratory the tests will be processed by. According to Bierschwale, they are carefully considering a few options and weighing each one’s capacity, average time for result delivery and cost per test.
During an Oct. 30 press conference, Matt Kelley, the Gallatin County health officer, said that he had been in touch with BSRAD and other resort towns who are interested in surveillance testing programs.
“We have been supportive of that, the health department can’t do that ourselves, we are at capacity,” he said.
Kelley added that, “We need to make sure that tests are reliable, and we need to make sure that any testing system in place has the capacity to report results to the state health department so that we can do contact tracing.”
Ideally, the surveillance testing program will help businesses and residents in Big Sky stay safe and keep Big Sky Resort open, according to Bierschwale.
“By adhering to CDC guidelines and identifying asymptomatic positives we will be able to stay resilient through the unknowns of this winter season. Although the details of the program are being fully developed it’s evident that Big Sky is truly committed and – all in,” he said.