Governor’s Coronavirus Task Force

Montana's Testing Information

Currently DPHHS is prioritizing testing at the MTPHL to ensure critical testing needs of patients and providers are met. As a result, testing performed will prioritized as follows:

Priority 1- Testing supporting response activities:

  1. Symptomatic, regardless of hospitalization
  2. Close Contacts 1 and Outbreak Investigations coordinated by Public Health Authorities

Priority 2- Testing supporting surveillance/monitoring activities:

  1. Frontline workers (Health Care Workers in high-risk situations, staff of Assisted Living Facilities and Long Term Care centers participating in surveillance testing)
  2. Residents of selected congregate settings such as group homes, institutions, and other facilities

Other low priority testing will be conducted as resources allow but may not be a priority for the MTPHL. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Testing of asymptomatic people for activities such as travel
  • Pre-procedural testing such pre-ops, dental visits and similar activities
  • Testing of individuals in the general public who are not symptomatic
  • Other individuals who seek testing that do not fit into the priority categories above

Close contacts are generally identified and referred to providers by local public health officials but instances of patient referrals may occur. If necessary, consultation with local public health officials, when feasible, if concerns regarding whether or not someone is a valid close contact exist.

If you have questions about COVID-19 testing in your county, please call your local health department.

Cascade County

Flathead County

  • Drive through testing for people with COVID-19 symptoms and close contacts of people who have testing positive for COVID-19 is available Monday-Saturday from 8:00AM - 5:00PM at the Grace Church parking lot (1225 US Highway 93). For more information, visit the Kalispell Regional Health website.
  • For more testing information and locations, please visit https://flatheadhealth.org/fchc/

Gallatin County

  • For testing information and locations, please visit the Healthy Gallatin website.

Missoula County

Yellowstone County

  • Drive through testing for people with COVID-19 symptoms and close contacts of people who have testing positive for COVID-19 is available weekdays from 9:00AM - 12:30PM at 2173 Overland Avenue - United Way of Yellowstone County. For more information, visit RiverStone Health.

If you are interested in advertising your community's testing event here, please  email us.

For the following promotional material requests, please email  jic@mt.gov

  • PR Assistance for events (ex. press releases and media advisories)
  • PSA scripts 
  • Questions on how to fill out the adobe fillable forms above

How much does testing cost?

Testing is available at no cost for people who don't have insurance or who have a doctor's order to be tested.

People who have insurance should always consult their health plan to make sure a service is covered before seeking any medical treatment. This is especially important to remember now because many insurance companies cover COVID testing if it is medically indicated but not for people without symptoms who haven’t been in direct, sustained contact with a person with a confirmed positive test. It’s best to call your health care provider first to ask this question to avoid incurring unexpected costs.

Uninsured Montanans should call 406-444-7605 or email HHSPresumptive@mt.gov for information about how to access free testing and treatment, if needed, for the uninsured.

My local health department isn't conducting COVID-19 testing asymptomatic individuals at this time, where do I go to get tested? 

Currently testing priority is for symptomatic individuals and their close contacts although the state is still supporting asymptomatic community testing on a limited basis.

If your local health department isn't conducting asymptomatic testing at this time and you need testing for other reasons, such as travel, you can request a COVID-19 test from your doctor. 

Many insurance companies are offering to cover the cost of COVID-19 testing, however, you should ask your insurance company about their claim policy first. If you are on Medicare or Medicaid, your COVID-19 testing will be covered. Uninsured Montanans should call 406-444-7605 or email HHSPresumptive@mt.gov for information about how to access free testing and treatment.

Why can't I get my test results back sooner so I can get off quarantine? 

It’s important to observe the entire 14-day quarantine period. Testing too early can provide a false sense of security because the virus may not be detected immediately. That’s why the 14-day quarantine is so important. Even if your test is negative and you do not have symptoms, continue to stay away from others (self-quarantine) for 14 days after your last exposure to COVID-19 and follow all recommendations from the health department.

Why are we testing people without symptoms?

We are learning more and more about this virus every day. While still being investigated, most experts believe individuals can transmit the virus before they have symptoms. We even know of individuals who never show symptoms but can carry the virus. How much of a risk these individuals are to spreading the virus is still unknown. The earlier we can find infected people, the better job we can do to prevent a significant outbreak within our community.

Where do I get tested if I do have symptoms of COVID-19?

If you have symptoms related to COVID-19 (such as shortness of breath, fever/chills, fatigue, muscle or body aches, etc.) please call your primary physician immediately. If you do not have a primary physician, call your local health department. Do not go in for testing without calling first.

Who do I contact if I have questions about COVID-19 testing being offered in my community?

Please call your local health department. A list of County and Tribal Health Departments and their contact information can be found at https://dphhs.mt.gov/publichealth/fcss/countytribalhealthdepts

What type of test is being offered?

A molecular (PCR) test will be done. Although results take a few days to be reported, this is the most sensitive and accurate test for infection of COVID-19. It will let you know if you have the virus (this is a "point in time" test so it only applies to whether or not you have the virus on the day the test is administered). Remember to continue to practice social distancing and other public health measures to prevent acquiring COVID19.

Are there other benefits to being tested?

Yes. Some people use the test to help plan for a safer visit to family and friends. To do this, it is crucial to avoid possible exposure to the virus between the time of testing and returned negative results. However, it is vital to understand if you have recently been exposed to COVID19, you may test negative but convert to positive within the 14 day incubation period of the virus.

Also, testing those with and without symptoms, and monitoring for early COVID-like symptoms presenting to our clinics and hospital, will help us establish trends and prevalence of COVID-19 in our area. This early information is crucial for us to minimize the impact (safety and economic) of this illness to our community. This kind of information will help the state determine when we can move to Phase 3 of Reopening the Big Sky.

What if I test positive?

As quickly as possible, confirmatory testing will be done to assure the initial test was accurate. During this time, you will be asked to "home quarantine" while we give instruction and encourage testing to those you have had close contact with. If truly positive, our public health team will monitor your symptoms with instructions for further care if needed.

Is the testing painful?

Absolutely not! We will be using the "self-swab" technique where you will be given a swab with instructions to swab the inside of your nose - this is a shallow technique avoiding the pain of deep swabbing.

I have questions regarding COVID-19 testing in nursing homes/assisted living facilities.

For questions regarding testing of Residents and Staff of Nursing Homes and Assisted Living Facilities, click here.

What steps are being taken to ensure COVID-19 test specimens results are received in a timely manner?

The State Public Health Laboratory continues to process tests seven days a week, has capacity to run about 1,300 tests a day, the turnaround time is 1-2 days once the sample arrives to the lab.

The State of Montana has a contract with the Mako lab in North Carolina that has performed with a 1-2 day turnaround time once the sample arrives to the lab.

Montana State University has also begun testing and has capacity to run 500 tests a day and is hoping to increase that capacity further.

Hospitals in Bozeman, Billings and Kalispell are processing tests as well.

Why doesn't Montana provide rapid COVID-19 testing, where results are available in minutes instead of days?

The State has distributed rapid testing analyzers (Abbott ID Now) and test kits to facilities across the state to support COVID-19 testing. Test kits are continuing to be supplied to these sites as well as to hospitals that already had these instruments. Additionally, some hospitals and outpatient clinical facilities have other rapid testing instruments that are being used for patient testing. We continue to support point-of-care tests across Montana as resources allow. The federal allocation of testing kits is the limiting factor and Montana has worked with partners to prioritize testing. Montana has distributed 15 Abbott machines across the state.

There are a number of challenges and barriers that Montana and other states are currently facing regarding the existing and new rapid COVID-19 tests that are available or are just being released. One barrier is supply chain shortages of test kits for specific systems.

A second challenge is related to the accuracy of these rapid tests and problems with false negative results. New technology is always emerging that we continue to evaluate . Ensuring high quality rapid testing is just as important as providing it.

The State of Montana continues to process COVID-19 tests daily at the state public health laboratory, is building up in-state capacity through contracts with Montana State University, hospitals in Bozeman, Kalispell and Billings and with the Mako lab in North Carolina.

**Contact your local public health department about future testing opportunities in your area.**

  • June 3: Poplar
  • June 4: Wolf Point
  • June 8: Birney, Ashland
  • June 9: Busby, Muddy Cluster
  • June 10: Lame Deer
  • June 12: Red Lodge
  • June 13: Red Lodge, Helena
  • June 17: Arlee
  • June 18: Pablo
  • June 19: Gardiner, Miles City, Polson
  • June 20: Livingston, Miles City, Elmo, Billings
  • June 22: DeBorgia, St. Regis, Helena
  • June 23: Alberton, Superior
  • June 24: Browning, Colstrip
  • June 25: Glasgow
  • June 30: Browning, Wyola
  • July 1: Seville, Crow Agency, Lodge Grass, Pryor, Wolf Point, Poplar
  • July 2: Browning, St. Xavier
  • July 7: Ekalaka, Glendive
  • July 8: Browning, Glendive
  • July 9: Browning, Hot Springs
  • July 10th: Browning, Elder, Virginia City
  • July 11th: Billings
  • July 12th: Livingston, Gardiner
  • July 13th: Hysham
  • July 14th: Culbertson
  • July 15th: Lincoln
  • July 16th: Fort Belknap, Hays, Hamilton
  • July 17th: Fort Belknap
  • July 22nd: Fort Peck
  • July 23rd: Fort Peck
  • August 9th: Lvingston, Gardiner
  • August 12th: Virginia City
  • August 26th: Brockton
  • August 27th: Frazer
  • September 9th: Birney, Ashland
  • September 10th: Busby, Muddy
  • September 11th: Lame Deer