Montana universities expanding state's testing capacities

HELENA - Gov. Steve Bullock held a presser Thursday giving a brief update on COVID-19 testing capacity in Montana.

Gov. Bullock announced an additional round of public health grants going towards both tribal and local governments need of further financial assistance, to assist on-the-ground efforts in reducing COVID-19 transmission. Gov. Bullock says the purpose of the grants are to help local health departments in hiring more healthcare workers and in providing necessary supplies. The state is dispersing those funds by Dec. 31, according to Gov. Bullock. 

In terms of testing capacities, Gov. Bullock says the University of Montana lab is planning to expand test sampling from only 40 to 50 per day to 1,000 tests per day as soon as possible. 

"Being one of our great universities, they certainly have the lab expertise in research capability necessary to contribute to Montana's COVID-19 testing needs," Gov. Bullock said.

He adds UM is mainly paying attention to the testing needs on campus; however, they are working to expand testing needs statewide. 

In addition, Montana State University was given a $776,000 grant from the state to create a quicker COVID-19 saliva-based testing.

"The PCR testing be conducted at our state lab, the MSU lab and at our contracted lab MAKO will still be the primary means of testing. Simply once validated, this new test will again greatly expand our in state testing capacity."  

Gov. Bullock says the state is still receiving requests for additional help from communities to alleviate stress off healthcare workers as cases rise, mostly from registered nurses. Anyone who is a registered nurse, licensed practical nurse, licensed paramedic, emergency medical technician, certified nursing assistant or contact tracer is encouraged to join the state's workforce. More information to register can be found on the Department of Public Health and Human Services' website. 

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