BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A lack of testing supplies for COVID-19 forced a cancellation of mass screenings Monday in Fargo, which is North Dakota’s largest metropolitan area and the state’s biggest coronavirus hot spot.
Gov. Doug Burgum said at his daily briefing that events planned Monday at the Fargodome and in Williston on Tuesday were postponed due to a temporary shortage of consumable components for machines needed to analyze the tests at the state Department of Health’s microbiology lab in Bismarck.
Burgum blamed the “frustrating interruption” on a supply chain issue that has caused a backlog of about 5,000 tests over the past few days.
About 80% of coronavirus tests are conducted at the state lab, Burgum said.
“No (mass) testing has been cancelled,” Burgum said. “(Mass) Testing only has been postponed.”
He did not know when the mass testing events would be rescheduled or when the backlog would be caught up. He said the testing equipment at the state lab that can handle increased testing should be online Tuesday.
Individual testing is still available, the governor said.
“We have plenty of kits and plenty of people collecting,” he said.
Burgum has said the state’s increased testing capacity, its low positive test rate for the coronavirus and the existing hospital bed capacity to handle patients were among the positive signs for reopening businesses with precautions on Friday. The plan’s been dubbed “ND Smart Restart.”
Burgum has said the state likely will have the capacity for 4,000 tests daily in May, and 6,000 in June. Only 1,401 tests were conducted on Sunday, health officials reported.
“We remain completely and totally committed to expanding our testing capacity,” he said.
The mass screenings were set for Sunday and Monday afternoons at the Fargodome and were reserved for the close contacts of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 and for essential workers.
Fargo Cass Public Health said “the goal of 500 tests” was reached on Sunday at the Fargodome.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.
Health officials on Monday reported the number of people in the state testing positive for COVID-19 has grown to 1,225, up 34 from the day before.
Cass County reports 25 new positive cases of the coronavirus, bringing the county’s total to 630 cases, more than double any other county in North Dakota.
North Dakota has reported 25 deaths from COVID-19 complications but none were reported on Monday.
Burgum also announced the campgrounds at most North Dakota’s state parks and recreation areas would reopen for limited camping on Saturday. All 15 state parks and recreation areas would reopen on May 21 with limited services, he said.
Burgum also said he will limit press conferences to three times a week instead of five, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Burgum said Monday was his 44th press conference on the coronavirus since March.