COVID-19 testing

Chuck Schaap braces for a COVID-19 nasal swab test, administered by Emerg-A-Care medical assistant Brad Nagel at the late May community testing event. Health care officials started surveillance testing to track the virus without having to put on more massive events.

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The Teton County Health Department is beginning its surveillance-testing program.

Surveillance testing is a public health tool in which people voluntarily are tested, even if they don’t have symptoms. It would allow the Health Department to do two things: find some asymptomatic carriers so they can isolate, and track the coronavirus’ spread within the community.

“The idea is that you just start randomly testing in your community and hopefully pick up some asymptomatic or presymptomatic positives,” Teton County Director of Health Jodie Pond previously told the News&Guide.

The department said in a press release Thursday that it is now recruiting businesses for the voluntary program. Owners or managers can sign up with the department, then employees will be selected at random each week. Employees will be able to opt out of the voluntary testing.

The oral tests are less invasive than the nasopharyngeal swabs most people have received so far. Using saliva from the cheek swabs, the Curative SARS-CoV-2 assay tests for active virus in the same way the nose swabs do.

The first round of surveillance testing is for employees in jobs who have lots of contact with tourists. The department’s list of targeted industries includes grocery stores, emergency services and tour guides, to name a few. (See the sidebar at for a full list.)

The next phase will include employees in industries who have prolonged contact with residents or work in close quarters. In all, the Health Department hopes to test 1,000 people per week.

Testing will be free of charge to employees and employers. For information on the program, call Kristen Trivelli at (307) 249-7480 or email her at

Contact Tom Hallberg at 732-7079 or

Tom Hallberg covers a little bit of everything, from skiing to long-form feature stories. A Teton Valley, Idaho, transplant by way of Portland and Bend, Oregon, he spends his time outside work writing fiction, splitboarding and climbing.

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