MISSOULA - A drive-thru testing facility for those who believe they have the coronavirus (COVID-19) will be fully functional in Missoula on Tuesday. 

At a press conference on Monday, Cindy Farr, the Incident Commander for the Missoula City-County Health Dept. said there was a soft-opening of the drive-thru testing site over the weekend that was successful. 

"Over the course of this pandemic we hope to test thousands of people," Farr said.

The site at the Missoula Fairgrounds will officially launch Tuesday. Farr stressed that those who need a test must make an appointment by calling 258-INFO. Only those in priority categories will be given a test, as Farr said supplies are still limited. 

"We do hope that we will be getting more supplies through our normal supply chain by the end of this week," Farr said.

Those categories include healthcare workers with symptoms, long-term care residents, first responders, those 65-years-of age or older, and those with underlying health conditions. 

Once a person within those categories who is symptomatic calls the 258-INFO line, a person will confirm whether they can be tested at the drive-thu site. 

The drive-thru test is broken up in three parts. First, you have to check in and confirm you have an appointment. Then, you drive up to the next tent where volunteer nursing students from UM will give you a packet of instructions and walk you through the testing process. Finally, you pull up to the third tent where an RN hands you a nose swab and counts for you while you take your own sample.

The whole process takes only 6 to 10 minuets and results should be back in 24 to 48 hours.

As this pandemic goes on there could be a time when the county will need to test a lot of people so they are implimenting the drive through testing before we reach our peak.

"We figured if we started while we are pretty early in this pandemic then we will be very prepared and have a lot of experience doing this when we get to the point of having a whole lot of people tested," Farr said.

Both Farr and Missoula Mayor John Engen stressed people cannot show up at the fairgrounds drive-thu testing site without an appointment. 

Farr said she anticipates the county will have access to additional tests in the coming days. 

This week the drive-thru testing site will take appointments Tuesday-Thursday, with a goal of being open Monday-Friday next week. 

Tuesday eight people were tested in the drive-thru, Farr said they will have the capacity to test up to 20 people in one day.

Click here for the latest information from the Missoula City-County Health Department.

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