Credit: Jason Thompson

Gov. Steve Bullock is expected to unveil plans this week to begin lifting the statewide stay-at-home order and business restrictions, even as Montana saw its first public demonstration against the current restrictions on Sunday.

Many public health experts say a return to normalcy will require mass testing, along with robust contact tracing, so health officials can rapidly respond to any spikes in COVID-19 infections, which are expected once restrictions begin to ease. 

How does contact tracing work? And how can we gauge when Montana is ready to begin lifting restrictions? Matt Kelley, health officer for the Gallatin City-County Health Department, tells freelance journalist Emily Stifler Wolfe, “Contact tracing is the central weapon that we use to find cases and throw a blanket over that case in a way that reduces the risk of exposure.”

On April 17, Montana Free Press published Wolfe’s story “How contact tracing slows the spread — and why getting Montana back to work requires more of it.” Wolfe is our guest on this week’s Montana Lowdown podcast, where she talks about what she learned while reporting the piece with host and Montana Free Press editor-in-chief John S. Adams. 

Alex McKenzie has worked with a diverse array of start-ups and nonprofit organizations. He is a former record producer and music journalist, has additional experience working in agriculture and food security, and previously operated his own dairy business. He lives in southwest Montana. Follow him on Twitter.