The Whitehall Ledger - Serving Southern Jefferson County in the Great State of Montana

Officials make plans for sentinel testing


Jefferson County Health Department Officials are currently working with St. James Hospital about possible sentinel testing.

A release from the county stated they have been working with St. James on getting this planned for county residents, but no dates or times have been established as both entities are busy and short-staffed.

In an article from the Missoula Current, Public Health Nurse Pam Boyd discussed sentinel testing in Missoula.

"It's a surveillance system where we look at specific groups of people who we feel are at high risk for either getting the disease or spreading the disease," said Boyd in the article. "We've identified high-risk groups and we'll test those groups and analyze the data that we get from those groups to look for trends happening in Missoula County so we can step in and do some early intervention."

While the local sentinel testing is being planned, officials encourage residents to utilize Butte/Silverbow's regularly scheduled sentinel testing site every Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at Butte Plaza Mall.


The Jefferson County Health Department was notified late Saturday about four new positive cases.

According to Molly Carey of the JCHD, these cases involve a female in her 30's, two males between the ages of 10-19, and one male between the ages of 0-9. They are household members and had been identified as close contacts to a positive case. She said those identified as close contacts are being notified and quarantined. Two more cases were reported Tuesday.

The total case count in Jefferson County is 13, of which ten are active and three have recovered. There are no hospitalizations.

Officials announced last week the fourth, fifth, and sixth confirmed cases. According to the department, both are females, one in their 40's and the other in their 50's and were put on isolation orders. Identified close contacts have been notified, quarantined and investigations have been initialized. The sixth case is a male between 50 and 59.


Editor's Note: The following was provided by Pam Hannah, RN with the JCHD.

What can a person diagnosed with COVID-19 expect during a case investigation? When it is confirmed through testing that an individual is positive for COVID-19, the person's county health department is notified and public health staff begins their work to keep the patient, their family, and the community safe. The patient will be in isolation until recovered. Nurses begin the case investigation. Case investigation is a key strategy in preventing further spread of infectious diseases. This investigation involves interviewing the case/patient to help them recall everyone they may have come in close contact with during the timeframe they may have been infectious. A close contact is anyone who has been within 6 feet of the case for more than 15 minutes.

The next step is a process called contact tracing.

Contact tracing involves:

* Notifying the contacts of their potential exposure (If you are not notified, you are not a close contact)

* Referring contacts for testing

* Providing education and information

* Monitoring contacts for symptoms

* Connecting contacts with services while they are in quarantine

Contacts are expected to remain home and maintain distance from others until 14 days after their last exposure.

To protect patient privacy, contacts are only informed that they may have been exposed. The identity of the patient is not disclosed. Patient privacy will also be respected by the Jefferson County Health Department related to the information we share publicly. We are unable to disclose names or locations of cases.

Montana is experiencing a daily increase in cases. Please do your part to slow the spread. Wash your hands well and often. Wear a mask in public. Physical distance from those not in your household. Avoid large gatherings. Consider your risks and the risks of your loved ones when choosing the activities you participate in.


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