Governor Steve Bullock on Friday visited the drive-through COVID-19 testing site at Fort Belknap Agency.
Testing began on Friday at at 10 a.m. and will be done in a drive/walk-through setting through 6 p.m., and again on Saturday, May 16 from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. On Friday there are two test locations: the Horse Capture Park parking lot at 143 Assiniboine Ave in the Fort Belknap Agency, and the St. Paul’s Mission School parking lot located at 761 Hays Road in the community of Hays. On Saturday testing will be conducted in the Horse Capture Park parking lot only.
A news release from the governor's office says the participating agencies are the Fort Belknap Indian Community, Montana National Guard, Fort Belknap Tribal Health and the Indian Health Service Unit, and the Blaine County Health Department. The state is providing the testing supplies and National Guard soldiers will deliver the completed samples for test completion at the state lab in Helena.
Bullock recently announced a framework to increase testing over the next several months, including a goal to eventually conduct 60,000 tests per month and prioritize testing for vulnerable Montanans in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, and tribal communities. He also continues working to ensure there are enough supplies to continue testing Montanans with COVID-19 related symptoms.
Fort Belknap Indian Community Council President Andrew Werk, Jr. said, “Being able to test any member of the community, those elders and those with underlying health conditions (with or without symptoms), our neighbors, health care workers and first responders, is important to keep them safe as well as our community, and ensures our Tribal Government and health care system can continue to function throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. It is great that our Tribal Community now has this expanded capacity.”
This week, the state received 19,500 swabs and 9,000 viral transport medium from the federal government to assist with increasing testing capacity.
Each site will have three testing lanes staffed with Fort Belknap medical and administrative personnel to assist individuals with swabbing and sample collection as well as tribal law enforcement to assist with traffic control if needed. The Montana National Guard will assist with traffic control, administrative assistance, and overall site assistance. Each day after the completion of sample collection, National Guard Soldiers will deliver the completed samples to Helena for test completion at the state lab. The National Guard will not be taking samples, will not be retaining personal or health information, or acting as law enforcement or medical personnel.
Bullock and his administration continue discussions with all Tribal Nations on providing testing capabilities. Also this week, testing supplies were delivered to 33 long-term care centers and assisted living facilities to begin testing willing residents and staff.