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COVID-19 testing: who and why in Montana

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“Town Crier” newsletter – Briefs from the Region (1) – 4/13/20

According to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Montana is employing contact tracing in determining which of its citizens get tested. This “battle-tested” method, which specifically traces the spread of a disease through contacts made by infected people, ultimately (in theory) containing transmission before it becomes untraceable, is credited to the curbing of smallpox in 1970s. Though, there is risk to this method, such as when spread outpaces the time-intensive process necessary to continue to trace potential contact infections. So why not just test anyone and everyone whenever requested, as seen in many nations around the world? The answer is simple—a nationwide lack of available tests, a phenomenon that has extended into the Treasure State. The Chronicle reports “decisions about whether to administer a COVID-19 test to an individual are generally made by frontline health providers, guided by criteria published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control,” along with testing priority tiers, putting hospitalized patients and symptomatic health care workers at the top of the list. As of presstime, Montana has 394 confirmed cases and seven deaths.

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