“Town Crier” newsletter – Briefs from the Region (1) – 4/30/20
On April 29, Gov. Steve Bullock announced Montana would be increasing testing availability to 60,000 a month, now that the Treasure State will begin to relax social distancing measures that began in late March. According to the Montana Free Press, the Governor claims the measure will help to ensure every Montanan exhibiting symptoms will have a test readily available, while allowing additional testing capacity in tribal communities and nursing homes—populations particularly at risk to serious medical setbacks as a result of infection. “This is a long-term goal that we’ll be ramping up to get to,” Bullock said, adding he hopes to meet the goal over the next several months; supply constraints on testing media, nasal swabs and other materials have hampered testing efforts thus far, a phenomenon experienced across the U.S. To date, more than 13,500 tests have been conducted in Montana, underscoring the significance of Bullock’s 60,000-per-month goal. Another setback looms large in responsibly mitigating the crisis: Montana only has some 12 health care workers per 100,000 residents available for time-intensive contact tracing, a “battle-tested” method that seeks to trace the spread of a disease through contacts made by infected people, ultimately (in theory) containing transmission before it becomes untraceable. The National Association of County & City Health Officials suggests public health agencies should have at least 30 health workers available for contact tracing for each 100,000 residents.