After the Missoula City County Health Department’s drive through COVID 19 testing center opened on Tuesday at the Missoula County Fairgrounds, many asked why the testing must be by appointment only.

Incident Commander Cindy Farr explains.

“We want to see people as efficiently as possible,” said Farr. “We didn’t want people waiting in line in their cars creating traffic problems while they’re not feeling well. By using appointment only testing we can better stagger the flow of people and traffic, increasing the safety and efficiency of our testing center. Our trial run this last weekend had people in and out in less than 10 minutes and we wouldn’t be able to do that if we weren’t taking appointments.”

Farr said there are still supply problems with testing materials.

“You’ve heard repeatedly from me and from others that resources are an issue and that we need to follow CDC guidelines on who gets tested at this time,” she said. “We would love to test everyone with symptoms, but that’s just not our present reality, and so by screening people over the phone we can save people that we can’t test from sitting in their cars waiting in a long line only to be turned away.”

Farr said the Health Department is also attempting to keep people at home as much as possible, and not waiting in line in their vehicles.

“Why bring everyone out of their hoses when we’re trying to get everyone to stay home?” she asked. “Yes, the Governor’s directive does say that you can leave home to seek medical attention, but providers are trying to use tele-health tools that can support that stay at home order, and social distancing efforts. That’s what we’re trying to do, as well. Another reason is we can’t adequately staff something if we don’t know the number of people that will be coming in.”

Farr said the healthcare providers must also be protected while conducting the COVID 19 tests.

“It also allows us to better use our personal protective equipment to protect the people who are running the test equipment,” she said. “It’s really hard to interact with someone who is six feet away through a mask or a face shield. This way, you get to talk to a nurse one on one over the phone and you know the time you will get to be tested is guaranteed for you and it is your time.”

Those who wish to be tested must first call 258-INFO (4636) and be interviewed by a nurse in order to receive an appointment.