North Dakota to launch pilot coronavirus test sites to find asymptomatic residents early

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Nicknamed Operation Drive-in, Governor Doug Burgum announced Friday April 3 that the North Dakota National Guard and the State Department of Health will set up test collection sites from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday April 4 at Amidon in County Slope and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday April 5, Gladstone in County Stark. Only residents living in the Gladstone fire district can travel to Gladstone for testing, and only residents of Slope can go to Amidon.

Pilot programs could help the state determine how asymptomatic residents can spread the virus, which would help quickly detect positive cases, said Burgum. The results could also be used to develop models for the rest of the state, he added.

If successful, the programs could be launched in major metropolitan areas, said Burgum.

“What we learn in these sparsely populated, currently low incidence counties will help all other parts of the state, and that could help the western counties in the US that are also being considered.”

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The announcement comes after North Dakota confirmed a total of 173 cases of coronavirus on Friday. This includes 14 additional positive tests from the most recent batch. The results of 5,798 tests were completed, of which almost 97% were negative.

Friday is the first time the state has made reports once a day. The figures are based on the previous day’s batch, the North Dakota Department of Health said in a press release Thursday, April 2.

With 818 tests completed on Thursday, the number reflects the biggest prize in North Dakota.

According to the health department, the latest figures include:

  • Woman in her 50s from Cass County, under investigation.

  • Woman in her twenties from Cass County, extended community.

  • Women in their 60s from Grand Forks County, travel possible.

  • A woman in her 40s in Cass County, the community has grown.

  • A woman in her thirties from Mountrail County, the community has grown.

  • Man in his forties from Mountrail County, under investigation.

  • Girl from 10 to 19 years old from Mountrail County, close contact.

  • Woman in her 20s from Morton County, close contact.

  • 70 year old woman from Morton County, under investigation.

  • Ward County woman in her thirties, traveling.

  • Man in his forties from Eddy County, traveling.

  • Man in his 50s from Williams County, close contact.

  • 70 year old woman from Stark County, close contact.

  • A man in his 60s from County Slope, the community has grown.

Spread in the community means that the source of the virus is unknown.

North Dakota has done tests by coincidence, which means people ask for tests after they get sick. Inviting more people to take tests, whether or not they have symptoms, is considered a surveillance test, said Burgum.

Testing in Slope and Stark counties is optional, said Burgum.

Burgum also signed a decree on Friday that would authorize therapists and respiratory care practitioners whose credentials have expired to obtain a temporary license to use respirators.

He dismissed criticism that he was not doing enough to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in North Dakota, referring to calls to issue a home stay order like Minnesota. Minnesota Governor Tim Walz said on Friday that he was concerned that North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa would not issue home stay orders.

Burgum hesitated to adopt a home stay order and argued for personal responsibility for government mandates. He said he wondered if states would face prosecution claiming that some orders were unconstitutional.

Responding to Walz’s statement, Burgum said that each governor cares about their states and uses state-specific data to make their own decisions. He noted that people from Minnesota are still allowed out for several reasons.

“Let’s just see how to be smart in North Dakota on this one,” he said.

Burgum called on people to look beyond the labels, read the details of home stay orders and take note of how the demographics of the population differ from state to state.

“We have natural advantages,” he said, noting that New York is more densely populated than North Dakota. “Don’t make a mistake. I will use all the tools at my disposal as governor to protect the life and safety of North Dakotans, but I will only use these tools if it makes sense. ”

Burgum plans to hold its next press conference on Monday.

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