BISMARCK -- As the Thanksgiving break approaches, the North Dakota University System is working with the North Dakota Department of Health to increase COVID-19 testing for students.

The university system is asking students to minimize their activities prior to leaving campus if they plan to visit family outside of their normal social circle.

If students choose to leave campus, they are encouraged to get a test prior to leaving campus then test again when they return.

The system says that “while the additional testing may increase the number of reported positive COVID cases, the goal of these efforts is to identify positive cases, thus minimizing the risk of spread to families and communities.”

“Identifying these positive COVID cases is a good thing ... and, in finding these positives and isolating them, we will decrease the spread of the disease,” NDUS Chancellor Mark Hagerott said in a statement.

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Students may be at lower risk when they are on campus, as opposed to elsewhere, due to the high mask use and social distancing on campus.

Campuses are reviewing their pandemic plans and continuing to ask students to create a wellness environment on campus through wearing masks, maintaining appropriate physical distance and appropriate hygiene measures. Each campus plan varies slightly, but most campuses are planning to continue offering their current learning models.

Some campuses, like Dakota College at Bottineau, Minot State and Mayville State, are allowing students to choose their learning model after Thanksgiving.

Dickinson State University, after considering the state’s executive orders and the current level of community spread in Stark County, the DSU President’s Cabinet voted to implement its plan for “Red Status: High Community Spread.” In red status, DSU will temporarily shift to primarily remote campus operations for the final three weeks of the fall semester. The majority of classes will pivot to remote delivery beginning Monday, Nov. 23. The university plans to return to in-person operations for the spring semester beginning Jan. 11.

Lake Region State College is encouraging residence hall students who leave for Thanksgiving break to access their courses using technology and not return to the residence halls until move in day for spring semester. The faculty have agreed to allow all students in lecture-based courses to attend class virtually using the technology installed in each classroom.