A little more than one-third of college students across North Dakota have been tested for COVID-19, according to state health officials.

Vern Dosch, the state's contact tracing administrator who is spearheading the testing effort in North Dakota, told the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education Thursday that about 70% of students have not been tested for COVID-19, which may be due to a variety of reasons including a worry about what a positive test might mean. Total testing numbers vary from campus to campus, Dosch noted.

“Some of them are asymptomatic or they don't have any symptoms, they feel fine, so they don't feel the need to get tested,” Dosch said.

Some students may worry that they could get in trouble from an athletics coach or members of a classroom if they test positive because it means others also would have to quarantine.

“It’s happening; it's unfortunate,” Dosch said. “Sometimes, it is a personal sacrifice to fess up that you are positive. The notion of positive cases walking around campus unidentified, unisolated is a concern. We know that that's happening just based on the data and the positivity rate on these campuses. We know that there are students that, for one reason or another, have elected not to be tested and have all the symptoms. So, again, educating them, encouraging them is so important.”

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Dosch said schools are encouraging students to utilize the Care19 app, which can anonymously alert people when they’ve been exposed to a positive case.

In other matters, board members discussed when the latest open board seat will be filled.

The board, which has eight voting members, has had a vacancy on and off for the past nine months since mid-January.

Fargo attorney Joseph Wetch, who was appointed to the board on July 1, resigned from his board position on Aug. 20. In a letter to Gov. Doug Burgum, Wetch said he resigned due to “unforeseen circumstances.”

Wetch had replaced longtime board member Don Morton, who finished his second, four-year term on the board at the end of June. Wetch’s resignation leaves that seat open again.

A spot also was open in the winter following the resignation of Dan Traynor, who stepped down from the higher education board to serve as a federal judge in North Dakota.

Board member Casey Ryan questioned whether there are steps that can be taken in the future to fill open seats quicker, especially given the board’s workload.

Applications remain open for the spot.The governor appoints members of the higher-ed board.

Gov. Doug Burgum’s pick will be chosen to serve the remainder of Wetch’s four-year term. He or she will begin serving immediately. The North Dakota Senate, which confirms Board of Higher Education appointments, will vote on whether to confirm Burgum’s choice during the 2021 Legislature.

North Dakotans who are interested in the position must apply by 5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 13. Late applications will not be accepted. They may be emailed to the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction at dpipa@nd.gov or sent by regular mail to the NDDPI at 600 E. Boulevard Ave., Dept. 201, Bismarck, ND, 58505.

The board also approved UND to enter into an agreement with UND Alumni Association & Foundation and the Grand Forks Growth Fund for a $1.3 million grant to be used in the construction of Nistler Hall and to approve the cost-free, 50-year lease to the city of Grand Forks for the creation of a City Workforce Center in Nistler Hall.

This summer the Grand Forks Jobs Development Authority voted unanimously to pay the university’s alumni association $133,000 every year for the next 10 in exchange for a workforce development center at the school’s new Nistler College of Businesses and Public Administration building.

“We want a competitive UND school of business and public administration that’s going to drive enrollment,” City Administrator Todd Feland said in July.

The plan was approved as a part of the board’s consent agenda.