Missoula medical clinics set up focused screening centers for COVID-19

COVID questions

With COVID-19 cases now confirmed in Montana, including two in Missoula County, two Missoula medical clinics are operating focused screening centers to care for patients with respiratory and flu-like symptoms.

The focused screening centers are located at:

Community FirstCare (North Reserve Only)
2230 N. Reserve St., Suite 402
Hours: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Call the complementary 24/7 Nurse on Call for symptom evaluation, 406-327-4770. Patients with symptoms should call in advance of visiting the hospital or any clinic.
Check-in online: http://www.communityfirstcare.com

Providence Grant Creek Walk-In Clinic
3075 N. Reserve St., Suite Q
Hours 8 a.m.-7 p.m., Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
If the patient is experiencing symptoms, please call in advance: 406-327-1750

Only people experiencing fever, difficulty breathing, cough and other respiratory and flu-like symptoms should access these focused screening centers. Patients with a primary medical provider should still call that office first before visiting a focused screening center.

The Missoula City-County Health Department continues to work with Community Medical Center, Partnership Health Center, Providence St. Patrick Hospital, Western Montana Clinic and other health professionals to share information and best practices to ensure specific strategies can be deployed that work best for our community. COVID-19 is new, but disaster response is not. Missoula hospitals and health systems conduct emergency preparedness training regularly. Medical providers treat patients with infectious diseases every day, so protocols are already in place to care for these patients while ensuring the safety of medical staff, visitors and the community.

Based on the experiences of other communities with confirmed cases, most people who become infected with COVID-19 will not become seriously ill and will not need hospitalization or even a trip to the emergency room or medical clinic. Emergency care is a precious resource that should be reserved for those with the most serious symptoms.

What the public needs to know:

  • Follow advice from public health officials, including social distancing (avoiding large groups of people — the CDC currently recommending canceling or postponing events of 50 people or more). Also take common steps like washing your hands for 20 seconds, not touching your face, staying home when you are sick, coughing or sneezing into an elbow or a tissue and throwing it away immediately. Check out missoula.co/cvirus for more information.
  • If you are sick, stay home and manage symptoms as you would any cold. Wipe down all “high-touch” surfaces daily (phones, counters, keyboards, doorknobs, etc.), try to use a separate bathroom from the rest of the family and avoid close contact with family members and pets.
  • If your symptoms become worse (fever, difficulty breathing and/or a cough), contact one of the focused screening centers listed above. Please note that the health department is not a focused screening center.
  • Wearing medical masks when not indicated is an unnecessary cost, could deprive access for medical providers and healthcare workers, and provide a false sense of security that can lead to neglecting other essential measures, such as hand hygiene practices.
  • The Missoula City-County Health Department hotline is available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday to answer any questions or concerns. Call 406-258-INFO (4636).
  • Most cases of COVID-19 will not need emergency care or hospitalization.

Steps to take if you are well:

  • Practice social distancing. Avoid large groups, which includes restaurants, concerts and other public gatherings.
  • Wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your face.
  • Wipe down all “high-touch” surfaces daily (phones, counters, keyboards, doorknobs, etc.).
  • Continue to see your medical provider for your regularly scheduled visits to address all other health care needs. Please do not neglect your existing needs.
  • If you are otherwise healthy, you only need to wear a mask if you are taking care of a person with suspected COVID-19 or if you show symptoms of COVID-19.

Steps to take if you develop upper respiratory symptoms:

  • Stay home when you are sick and manage symptoms as you would any cold.
  • Try to use a separate bathroom from the rest of the family and avoid close, prolonged contact with family members and pets.
  • Cough or sneeze into an elbow or a tissue and throw it away immediately.
  • If you have a mask or handkerchief available to you and must go out in public, please wear the mask while you are away from your home.
  • Call your medical provider before coming in to be seen.

Other Missoula healthcare resources include:

Community Medical Center: Call the complementary 24/7 Nurse on Call for symptom evaluation, 406-327-4770. Patients with symptoms should call in advance of visiting the hospital or any clinic.

Partnership Health Center: Patients with symptoms should call the main line at 406-258-4789 before visiting a PHC site.

Providence Clinics – Call your primary care clinic for symptom evaluation. After hours/weekends, call the main clinic number or 1-855-PMG-TEAM (1-855-764-8326) for nurse on call.

Western Montana Clinic – Call your primary care provider first 406-721-5600 before arriving for symptomatic evaluation.

Cost Care – Call the clinic at 406-728-5841 before arriving for evaluation.

With the threat of a new illness in our state that could cause a surge of patients, we need the help of everyone to keep our most sensitive populations safe. Please be diligent with social distancing, washing hands, staying home when sick and coughing and sneezing into an elbow or tissue.

Additional information about the coronavirus is available on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, the Montana Department of Health and Human Services website and the Missoula City County Health Department website.

Missoula health officials clarify COVID-19 testing procedures

Reduce coronavirus WHO

Missoula City-County Health Department and local hospitals have received several calls regarding testing for COVID-19.

“There is a lot of confusion among the public about testing for COVID-19, mostly around the expectation that anyone can get a test,” says Cindy Farr, incident commander for the county’s response team. “It’s not as simple as testing everyone in the community.”

One of the most significant points of confusion is how the test works. The current test is not designed to screen people for their risk of exposure to the virus. It can only diagnose someone with COVID-19 who is showing symptoms.

Another challenge with testing is the number of test kits available. While the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services received approval to start testing for COVID-19 early last week, they had access to only 200 tests for the whole state, meaning resources need to be used judiciously. For a test to be completed at the state, local health care providers work with DPHHS and take into account a person’s likelihood of exposure, their symptoms, the severity of those symptoms, and the exclusion of other respiratory illnesses. These criteria were set to use resources effectively and ensure that those with a higher likelihood of having COVID-19 are diagnosed quickly.

Soon, a private lab will be able to process diagnostic tests for Missoula. While this is welcome news, that doesn’t change the nature of the test, as it is still a diagnostic test and not used for screening. It also does not increase the supply of tests, and health care providers will still need to assess the likelihood of COVID-19 before testing. While more testing is a good thing, Montana does not want labs overwhelmed with tests from unlikely candidates, resulting in delays diagnosing those who may have the disease.

“Hopefully, more resources will become available, but we need to work effectively with the resources we currently have,” Farr says. “Right now, the best tool we have in our community is prevention.”

The health department recommends the following precautions:

  • Wash your hands
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Disinfect surfaces frequently
  • If you do exhibit symptoms of fever, coughing or shortness of breath, call your medical provider first and stay home except when seeking medical treatment

The public can call 406-258-INFO with questions or concerns about COVID-19. Local information also is online at http://missoula.co/cvirus.