Governor Bullock Visits Fort Belknap Indian Community to Recognize COVID-19 Testing Efforts
MONTANA – Governor Steve Bullock today visited the drive thru testing site taking place at the Fort Belknap Agency today and tomorrow as part of state efforts to partner with tribal communities to perform enhanced surveillance testing.
“Ramping up testing in our state is crucial to ensuring we can continue to reopen safely, and expanding testing efforts in the tribal communities is an essential part of our continued approach to mitigating the virus,” said Governor Bullock. “I appreciate the partnership with the Fort Belknap Indian Community for this weekend’s testing and am thankful for all of their efforts in keeping the community safe.”
The Fort Belknap Indian Community, Montana National Guard, Fort Belknap Tribal Health and the Indian Health Service Unit, and the Blaine County Health Department will be providing drive thru testing on Friday and Saturday. The state is providing the testing supplies and National Guard soldiers will deliver the completed samples for test completion at the state lab.
Governor Bullock recently announced a framework to boost testing over the next several months, including a goal to eventually conduct 60,000 tests per month and prioritize testing for vulnerable Montanans in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, and tribal communities. He also continues working to ensure there are enough supplies to continue testing Montanans with COVID-19 related symptoms. This week, the state received 19,500 swabs and 9,000 viral transport medium from the federal government to assist with increasing testing capacity.
“We appreciate Governor Bullock’s leadership in protecting community health here in Montana and on our Indian reservations by prioritizing testing for the most vulnerable populations while maintaining sufficient supplies to continue testing individuals symptomatic for COVID-19,” said Fort Belknap Indian Community Council President Andrew Werk, Jr. “Being able to test any member of the community, those elders and those with underlying health conditions (with or without symptoms), our neighbors, health care workers and first responders, is important to keep them safe as well as our community, and ensures our Tribal Government and health care system can continue to function throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. It is great that our Tribal Community now has this expanded capacity.”
Testing will be done in a drive/walk-through setting Friday, May 15 and Saturday, May 16 from 10:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. On Friday there are two test locations: the Horse Capture Park parking lot located at 143 Assiniboine Ave in the Fort Belknap Agency, Montana and the St. Paul’s Mission School parking lot located at 761 Hays Road in Hays, Montana. On Saturday testing will be conducted in the Horse Capture Park parking lot only.
Each site will have three testing lanes staffed with Fort Belknap medical and administrative personnel to assist individuals with swabbing and sample collection as well as tribal law enforcement to assist with traffic control if needed. The Montana National Guard will assist with traffic control, administrative assistance, and overall site assistance. Each day after the completion of sample collection, National Guard Soldiers will deliver the completed samples to Helena for test completion at the state lab. The National Guard will not be taking samples, will not be retaining personal or health information, or acting as law enforcement or medical personnel.
Governor Bullock and his administration are in discussions with all Tribal Nations on providing testing capabilities. Additionally this week, testing supplies were delivered to 33 long-term care centers and assisted living facilities to begin testing willing residents and staff.
To continue testing symptomatic Montanans, perform contact tracing and scale up Montana’s ability to test vulnerable Montanans, Governor Bullock has consistently participated in phone calls with the nation’s governors and the President, Vice President, and Senior Administration Officials to reiterate Montana’s need for a consistent supply chain of swabs and other supplies including viral transport medium.