Bigfork to offer free COVID-19 testing

| June 29, 2020 12:12 PM

A free coronavirus testing clinic is now open to people in the Bigfork area on Tuesdays from 1-6 p.m. Bigfork Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Rebekah King said the clinic is geared toward people who are employed in the Bigfork Area and who work with the public, but is available to anyone who is asymptomatic.

“Bigfork can feel a little separate from the rest of the Flathead Valley, so it is important that testing is available here to act as an early warning system for community spread,” said King.

She explained that Bigfork is a favorite destination for visitors from all over the country and protecting local frontline workers is of the utmost importance.

When individuals pull up to the testing facility, they will be asked some screening questions. People who have symptoms of COVID-19, such as fever, cough and shortness of breath, will be redirected to a doctor’s office.

The asymptomatic test is self-administered and requires individuals to swab a half-inch up their nose for 10-15 seconds. This processs is just as effective as the full nasal cavity swab. Tests will take five to seven days to process and patients will be contacted with their results by the Flathead Community Health Center.

The clinic will operate Tuesdays from 1-6 p.m. in the south drive-through stall at Park Side Credit Union. The site will be staffed by a nurse from the Flathead Community Health Center and a volunteer administrative assistant. The duration the clinic will be offered depends on the level of community response, King said, and the hours may be subject to change based on community feedback.

“The key component to Bigfork getting [the testing center] as quickly as we did was having administrative volunteers,” she said. “Currently, we have volunteers scheduled out for five weeks.”

Administrative volunteers will be responsible for asking patients screening questions prior to testing and will be supplied with appropriate personal protective equipment. More volunteers are needed and anyone who is interested is asked to contact the Bigfork Area Chamber of Commerce. Prospective volunteers should be organized and approachable and those in high-risk groups for developing COVID-19 are not recommended for this position.

The clinic is being funded by state dollars to help increase availability of community testing. As of Monday, Flathead County has 59 total cases, including six new cases on Monday alone — the highest daily total observed since the start of the pandemic. Statewide, Montana is experiencing an uptick of COVID-19 cases thanks in part to increased testing and tourism. There are 919 cases of COVID-19 statewide. Of these, 609 have recovered, 288 are active, 22 have died and 13 individuals with COVID-19 are currently hospitalized.

For more information or to sign up for a testing center volunteer shift, contact the Bigfork Area Chamber office at (406) 837-5888.