The Missoula City County Health Department is receiving a number of inquiries from people asking to be tested for COVID-19 (coronavirus).

Director Ellen Leahy provided some important background information about the official diagnostic tests, which differ from a screening.

“There are a number of expectations and facts and non-facts out there,” said Leahy. “The one that we’re getting a lot of questions about, that we want the public to have the most up-to-date information on is about testing for this new coronavirus called COVID-19, such as the availability of it, the purpose of it, and how one does or doesn’t get access to that test.”

Leahy continued to more clearly define the terms involved.

“The test is not a screening test,” she said. “Say you went traveling and you want to clear your mind and make sure you didn’t pick up COVID-19, well this is not a screening test, it’s a diagnostic test that’s part of a larger diagnostic process.”

Leahy said the actual COVID-19 tests are rare and are only used when the healthcare provider believes the diagnosis could be coronavirus.

“There are only 200 tests available in the state of Montana right now at the state health department lab,” she said. “They are being used for folks who present with illness and then test negative for influenza and test negative for some other respiratory problems, and in the physician’s opinion, or based on their travel history, should be tested for COVID-19.”

Leahy clearly stated that if a patient in Missoula or anywhere in Montana receives a positive diagnosis of COVID-19, there would be an official combined press release from the City County Health Department and the Montana Department of Health and Human Services.

As of Tuesday afternoon, there have been no such announcements, and Montana remains free of the coronavirus.