Local youth is grand prize winner in Lady Power Snowboarding Competition

Local snowboarder Riley Mcnew participated in a ladies only slope style competition on Saturday, Jan. 15 at Whitefish Mountain Resort (WMR).

There were over 60 participants at this inaugural event an McNew won the grand prize of a new Rossignol snowboard.


Photo by Zach McNew.

650,000 Rapid

At-Home COVID-19 Tests to be distributed throughout Montana

Submitted by Brooke Stroyke, Office of the Governor


On January 13, Governor Greg Gianforte announced plans to increase access to at-home COVID-19 rapid antigen tests for Montanans.

The governor has secured approximately 650,000 tests which will be distributed statewide through local public health departments. The tests will be available at no cost to Montanans.

“As the state of Montana, like the rest of the nation, faces a new surge with the omicron variant, testing is a critical tool to help keep people safe with early detection,” Gov. Gianforte said. “Recognizing the nationwide testing shortage and the Biden administration’s continued failure to deliver on its promise of free at-home rapid tests for Americans, we took matters into our own hands, securing about 650,000 at-home rapid tests that will be available at no cost to Montanans.”

Gov. Gianforte ordered about 650,000 tests from Medea Medical Products for approximately $5.5 million, or about $8.46 per test.

The state anticipates the tests will arrive in Montana the week of January 24. Once the tests arrive, the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services and Montana Disaster and Emergency Services will ship allocations to local public health departments for community distribution. Once the tests have been distributed to public health departments, additional information on how and where tests can be obtained will be announced.

The CareStart tests are self-administered, and results are available in 10 minutes.

The governor took action to secure at-home COVID-19 rapid antigen tests for Montanans as omicron surges in the state.

Yaak Valley Forest Council

Announces New Executive Director 

Submitted by the Yaak Valley Forest Council


The Yaak Valley Forest Council, a non-profit created in 1997 to implement conservation and restoration programs to maintain the Yaak’s wild character and ecology, hired Amy Pearson as their new Director.

Born and raised on a farm north of Conrad, Montana, Pearson recently moved to Lincoln County to work on Wilderness designation in the Scotchman Peaks. She has a background working for the National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service in a variety of capacities, such as trails, backcountry coordination, and fire. She was board president for the Flathead chapter of Wild Montana and has worked as a professor and writer. She has a BA in communication and philosophy from Rocky Mountain College, an MA in organizational communication from the University of Montana, and a PhD in organizational communication from Arizona State University. Her academic research has focused largely on the landscape and people of Glacier National Park.

“I’ve always been fascinated by the Yaak,” Pearson said. “There’s something really special about the people who live here, and the feeling you get when you walk through these old forests. I’m honored for the opportunity to get to know this wild place and committed to helping recover our small population of grizzlies—the least-resilient in North America. I also look forward to working with long-time partners like the Kootenai National Forest and Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks to repair and restore damaged public lands and establish a science-based portion of the Yaak as a climate refuge.”

“We’re all excited by the opportunity Amy Pearson gives us to advance our mission,” says Rick Bass, board chair of YVFC. “She’s a great asset in protecting and recovering Yaak’s isolated grizzly population and addressing climate change by promoting responsible thinning in the community interface, while protecting our old and ancient forests in the Yaak. Amy Pearson is the right person at the right time for the Yaak–we’re so lucky and happy to have her on our team.”

What Is Different About Omicron?

By Karen Morrissette


Since the first case of COVID-19 caused by the Omicron variant was identified in the United states on the first of December, it has been spreading rapidly and is now found in all fifty states. We just recently had our first documented case of Omicron in Lincoln County. It seems to spread more easily due to the increased number of mutations on the spiked protein that allows it to attach more easily to cells and cause infection. This means it is more contagious, or more easily spread between individuals. There is some evidence that cloth masks are not as effective with Omicron as with previous variants, so many health organizations are recommending medical grade masks when available.

Omicron causes similar symptoms to previous COVID-19 variants. These may include fever, fatigue, muscle aches, congestion, and cough. However, fewer people are noticing the loss of taste and smell that was typical with other variants. While a larger percentage of people infected with Omicron seem to have mild symptoms, it can also cause severe disease, especially in those who are immunosuppressed or unvaccinated.

It is still uncertain how effective current COVID-19 vaccines are against the Omicron variant, but even if they are less effective in preventing infection, the antibodies produced almost certainly help to decrease the severity of the disease in those who do get infected. Early evidence suggests that while rapid lateral flow tests for COVID-19 do detect the Omicron variant, they may be less sensitive, meaning that some cases could be missed during testing. That is why it is recommended that anyone with symptoms who has a negative result on a rapid test also have a PCR test for confirmation. The PCR, or polymerase chain reaction, test has greater sensitivity. Lateral flow testing does not differentiate the type of variant, just that COVID-19 is present. Only PCR tests can be used to do that, so it is likely that the numbers of Omicron cases are underreported.

The Omicron variant may also have an effect on how COVID-19 cases are treated. According to the CDC, certain types of monoclonal antibodies, a treatment sometimes given to help prevent high risk individuals who are infected with COVID-19 from developing severe disease, may not be as effective against the Omicron variant. There are also a limited number of antiviral mediations that can be used to help prevent high risk individuals who are infected with COVID-19 from developing severe disease, but some of these are currently in very short supply.

Omicron will almost certainly not be the last COVID-19 variant to make its way to us. Vaccination, mask wear, avoidance of large or crowded social situations, and testing are, and will continue to be, important. It has been widely written that the increased infectiousness of Omicron may help us get to a state of herd immunity faster because more people will likely be infected. While that may be true, there remains a significant proportion of the population, especially in communities like Libby, who are at high risk for severe disease no matter the variant and who require the help of their community to avoid the disease if possible.