Tioga will have a free, drive-through testing event on Thursday, July 16 at the high school for COVID-19.
Several COVID-19 cases were recently identified in Tioga, by a contractor who provides services to the Tioga Gas Plant owned by Hess Midstream LP, in which the Hess Corporation owns an interest.
Thursday’s testing event, however, was not necessarily prompted by that outbreak, though it was a factor in the decision.
“There’s just been an uptick in Williams County COVID numbers,” said Shelby Davis, clinic manager for the Tioga Medical Center. “We thought it would be a good idea to get a testing event so we can get a better idea what the situation is in Tioga. We had been trying to get one over here. This kind of reaffirmed it was a good idea.”
Williams County cases have spiked in recent days. There are more than 50 cases since June 25, 15 of them in just the past three days. Monday, eight cases were reported.
Davis noted there are a lot of contract workers who, while they may not have traveled, may either work with those who have traveled or have people in their household who have traveled. There are also a lot of work environments where people may be in close contact with individuals who aren’t part of their household.
Results of the testing event in Tioga and the recent testing event in Williston could influence decisions as far as future testing events, Davis said.
“The numbers do matter, and everyone should be aware of it,” she said.
Social distancing, good hand hygiene, wearing a mask are all layers of protection that can help slow the spread of coronavirus and keep it within manageable parameters for existing health care capacity, Davis added.
According to details posted on Facebook, the testing event Thursday will be open to members of the public who are 12 years old and up.
Individuals may pre-register for the event, to help speed up the line at https://testreg.nd.gov/covid-19-screening/.
Pre-registering won’t guarantee a test. It will just help the line move faster. Also, if you don’t get a confirmation email from the pre-registration process, that is OK. You should still attend the event.
Davis said those who are asymptomatic are particularly encouraged to participate.
“We want to get everyone tested who wants to get tested,” Davis said. “(Drive-through testing) is primarily intended for people who aren’t having any symptoms who wouldn’t necessarily have any reason to get tested. We’re trying to find the asymptomatic cases, to help slow the spread (of coronavirus) and figure out what the situation is in Tioga and the surrounding area.”
People who either work with numerous individuals outside their own household or who have attended large gatherings where they’ve had close contact with people outside their own household are particularly encouraged to get a COVID-19 test.
The testing event will begin at 8 a.m. and continue through 11 a.m., or until all test kits have been used up. It is not known how many test kits are available.
It will be a drive-up testing event. You must be in a motor vehicle to participate.
Automobiles will access the testing site from Signal Street, south onto Temple Avenue, and then enter from the south side of North Linda Street to the Tioga High School parking lot by the library doors. Vehicles may begin lining up for the drive-through testing at 7:30 a.m.
When entering the motor vehicle line for testing, use four-way flashers to signal your intention to enter the COVID-19 testing line.
Those who are not participating in the testing event are asked to stay clear of the area if possible. Sections of North Linda Street and Temple Avenue will be closed during the event.
The testing event on Thursday is being put on by the Upper Missouri District Health Unit and Tioga Medical Center in collaboration with the city of Tioga, Williams County Emergency Management, Tioga Fire and Ambulance Department, Southwestern District Health Unit, North Dakota National Guard, and North Dakota Department of Health.
As far as the cases associated with the Tioga Gas Plant, it is still not known how many individuals were identified with COVID-19 by the contractor providing the services, or whether those cases were part of the state’s daily case counts for Williams County.
A request for information about that was sent to the North Dakota Joint Information Center last week. Another request was sent Monday afternoon.
Hilary Harmon, manager of communications for Hess Corporation said all of the contracting firm’s employees who tested positive for coronavirus are in self-isolation.
A phone number for the contractor tracked back to Texas-based EMCOR. Harmon said the contractor is using its contact tracing processes to identify all close contacts.
EMCOR was called for comment, but did not return the call. Ohmstede Industrial Services has since reached out to identify themselves as the contractor. They are an EMCOR company.
In an emailed statement, Norman Thornton, President of Ohmstede Industrial Services, said the health and safety of its employees, customers and partners are top priority.
"At the outset of the pandemic, Ohmstede Industrial Services implemented safety protocols consistent with best practices and CDC guidelines," he added. "Any employee who tests positive for COVID-19 is required to self-isolate, along with those who have come in close contact with an individual who tests positive, and we have contact tracing protocols at all of our worksites. We will continue to work with our partners to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect the health and safety of our team.”
The company did not say how many COVID-19 cases were identified in its email, nor how they were discovered.
Hess already had several COVID-19 prevention protocols already in place at the time of the outbreak, and is following recommendations from the CDC and local health authorities related to the outbreak.
“Relevant areas at the plant were deep cleaned based on enhanced cleaning protocols,” she said. “In addition, health screenings for workers prior to entering work sites have been and continue to be conducted, and modified work plans continue to be used to enhance social distancing.”
North Dakota reported 108 new cases on Monday — a new high for one day — and 83 recoveries. There were also five more hospitalizations, bringing the total hospitalized to 43, which is also a new high.
The active case count has been rising steadily, and is now at 702. Eighty-seven have died.
Cases around the nation have also been rising as states reopen. The total case count nationwide has topped 3.3 million, and the death toll is now at 135,000.