Starting Monday, Jan. 31, Lewis and Clark Public Health (LCPH) will transition to automated contact tracing, using SMS text messaging to reach all positive COVID-19 cases in the county.
Text messages will come from (406) 213-1444 – this is a phone number specifically used by LCPH for this purpose – and to provide the individual with isolation and other information. The automated system is a HIPAA-compliant platform and will not compromise protected health information.
“With the Omicron variant, the number of cases is increasing at a rate where our contact tracers and public health nurses cannot keep up with them, which can lead to delays and frustration for residents whose COVID-19 test is positive,” said Drenda Niemann. , health officer for Lewis and Clark Public Health. “Using technology to get information to residents quickly and efficiently will better streamline processes and, in turn, provide isolation instructions to individuals in hours rather than days.”
LCPH says the rationale for the transition is due to the large number of cases the county is experiencing. Omicron’s shorter incubation period makes it increasingly difficult to identify close contacts of cases before their quarantine period ends, and transmission of the COVID-19 virus occurring before symptoms appear and during the first days of symptomatic illness.
Public Health Notes using the automated texting service, they will be able to identify and contact cases within 24 hours.
Close contacts should follow quarantine recommendations and consider testing at least five days after exposure and certainly if they become symptomatic.
For residents without a cell phone or number that cannot be reached by text, the health department will use follow-up emails or calls to ensure that all necessary information is reaching county residents.
LCPH will continue to offer testing through its testing clinic at the exhibition center to symptomatic/exposed people, by appointment only. More information about the test in the county can be found here.
Lewis and Clark County will not be offering testing to the general public. The federal government will send four free home tests to all interested residents. More information can be found at: www.covidtests.gov/
In addition, test kits are distributed on a priority basis to congregation facilities (the detention center, shelters, long-term care) and local day care centers and schools whose populations cannot easily reach the clinic. Fairgrounds test.