covid conference

Gov. Doug Burgum, right, wants individuals denied COVID-19 testing to call the state's hotline.

North Dakota is looking to expand its testing sites around the state, and is planning to establish a static testing site in Williston.

Gov. Doug Burgum said static sites would be opening in Dickinson on July 15 and in Williston, Minot, Jamestown, Bismarck and Devils Lake on July 20.

The testing locations will be operated by local health units with support from the National Guard in locations that are easily accessed by the community.

The sites will be in addition to whatever testing is already available with other health care providers. It is not intended to negate any of those options, but simply to make testing more widely available and accessible as the state strives to reach its goal of maintaining 5,000 or more tests per day.

Burgum said he is continuing to hear reports of people who have been denied testing, often over weekends or evenings, including one 70-year-old male who had been sick for five days and was turned down at two locations.

“I just want to say that is not acceptable, given that we are in this emergency situation,” Burgum said. “We are going to reach out systematically to all of the health care providers in the state to find out if there are things that we can do working together to solve this problem.”

Burgum acknowledged certain complexities in the health care system, but added that any hospital unsure about how the cost of a test would be recovered should call the state to talk about it.

He also encouraged individuals turned down for COVID-19 testing to call the state’s hotline to let them know about it. The hotline is 1-866-207-2880.

“(Testing) is not only the right thing for the individual who is sick, it is the right thing for the community and the state,” Burgum said. “So we can get them identified and slow the spread.”

Testing has been a central part of North Dakota’s reopening plans, to help quickly identify and isolate new cases. Those getting tested will now also be helping the national efforts as well, Burgum said.

That is because the PCR tests are being expanded to include genomic sequencing, which will added to a national databank.

“The more samples sequenced, the more helpful this is,” Burugm said.

Meanwhile, on the business front, Michele Kommer, Commissioner of the North Dakota Department of Commerce, is rolling out a new program to help businesses install equipment to boost consumer confidence.

In her conversations with businesses about what is needed to help them recover, consumer confidence was a central theme, Kommer said.

The grants, for $50,000 per facility or up to $100,000 for business with two locations, can be used to purchase things like touchless payment devices, faucets and door kicks, as well as things that could more directly help control the extent of infection such as temperature checking equipment, plastic partitions, UV sanitizers, and the like.

An online conference is planned to explain the details of the Economic Resiliency Grant Program at 11 a.m. July 9. Registration is available at ndchamber.com. A recording will be available for those unable to attend the live event.

Burgum, meanwhile, is reinstating the requirements for those receiving unemployment to seek employment as of July 26. North Dakota Job Services offices will also be opening on that date.

This corresponds to the end of the paycheck programs that had been providing additional unemployment.

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