Montana State to provide surveillance COVID-19 testing for Montanans

Posted at 2:44 PM, Jul 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-22 16:45:48-04

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock announced Wednesday that the state is partnering with Montana State University to expand surveillance COVID-19 testing for critical front-line health care personnel, essential workers, and other groups.

The Governor's Office said in a press release that MSU researchers will have the capacity to test 500 people per day and will begin surveillance testing next week.

“Surveillance testing of asymptomatic individuals is a powerful tool in helping slow the spread of the virus in our Montana communities,” Bullock said. “Montana State University has been an enthusiastic partner in helping find a Montana solution to our testing capacity and I am incredibly grateful for their partnership as we work together to protect the health of Montanans.”

The release said The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) will determine the Montana populations that need to be tested for surveillance and then will ship the samples to a designated laboratory at MSU.

"As the state’s land-grant university, this kind of service and outreach to the people of Montana is what we are called to do,” said MSU President Waded Cruzado. “Montana State University’s researchers have poured their creative energies into this project as well as other important endeavors that benefit the communities we serve."

MSU will use four qPCR machines to perform the surveillance testing, as directed by DPHHS.

Major General Matthew Quinn leads the Governor’s Coronavirus Task Force and said the asymptomatic testing is an important step in detecting and responding to asymptomatic individuals who test positive for COVID-19.

“This initiative is a step in the right direction and will serve us well in helping to detect the virus among asymptomatic groups of people so that we can take quick action to stop the virus from spreading,” said Major General Quinn.

Gov. Bullock also confirmed Montana has finalized a contract with a reference lab, MAKO Medical in North Carolina, to begin processing an anticipated 1,000 tests each day from Montana.