Grand Forks Public Health to change testing operations as coronavirus cases climb in Grand Forks
There were more than 200 cases reported in one day this week
GRAND FORKS — As coronavirus cases climb in Grand Forks, the public health department is making changes to its testing operations.
Grand Forks Public Health announced on Friday, Jan. 14, that those testing at UND’s Fritz Pollard Jr. Athletic Center will be limited to receiving only one test per visit and will have the option of receiving either a PCR test or a rapid antigen test. Individuals could previously opt to get both a PCR test and a rapid antigen test at the same time. The change comes as there is an increased demand at the test site.
Free COVID-19 testing will continue to be available Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. However, if PCR testing capacity is reached, that testing option may need to close early. Rapid antigen testing will continue through 10:45 am.
“In order to use our testing resources responsibly, individuals are asked to not test on a daily basis,” Grand Forks Public Health said in a press release on Friday afternoon.
To pre-register for a PCR test, call 701-780-6358. To pre-register for a rapid antigen test, visit testreg.nd.gov.
Coronavirus case numbers are continuing to climb in Grand Forks.
As of Thursday, Jan. 13, North Dakota’s county analysis shows there are 794 active cases of COVID-19 in Grand Forks County. The county recorded 273 active cases in just one day, according to Thursday’s data.
Debbie Swanson, director of Grand Forks Public Health, said the increase in cases is likely due to the increased transmissibility of the omicron variant and relatively low vaccination rates.
“Although we have reached a 60% vaccination rate for our county population, it needs to be much higher to prevent infections with this new variant,” she said.
She added that breakthrough infections are happening with people who are up to date with their COVID-19 vaccinations, but for the most part, the vaccine is preventing hospitalization and death.
“This means the vaccines are doing what they are supposed to do,” she said. “That could change when the most vulnerable in our community are exposed and have a breakthrough infection. COVID-19 vaccines are still the best tool to prevent future disease transmission, especially when paired with other layers such as masks, social distancing and isolating cases.”
Grand Forks County ranks third in the state for total case loads. As of Thursday’s update, Cass County has 2,559 active cases, Burleigh County has 1,051 active cases and Rolette County has 537 active cases.
Swanson said interest in testing has “increased exponentially” recently.
“Resources for testing include people to perform the tests, laboratory capacity, adequate supplies, and funding to pay for it all,” Swanson said Friday morning, prior to the press release from Grand Forks Public Health. “Our team is working hard with all our partners that make testing readily available for everyone who needs it. The testing site at UND is a partnership of Grand Forks Public Health, the (North Dakota) Department of Health, Altru and UND.”
Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been 16,714 total positive cases in Grand Forks County. There have been 106 total deaths related to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. According to state data, Grand Forks has had 603 “breakthrough” cases per 10,000 fully vaccinated individuals.
State health officials held a virtual town hall on Thursday, Jan. 13, to discuss the state’s growing number of coronavirus cases. Officials said COVID-19 hospitalizations will likely rise in the next few weeks due to the number of cases across North Dakota. Additionally, the state has one of the country’s lowest vaccination rates for the virus.
Health officials said around 81% of testing samples collected over the last week contained the latest omicron variant. Cases may peak in February.
As of Friday morning, there were 7,463 active cases in North Dakota, about 230% more cases than the state reported in December, Forum News Service reported.
Across the state, health officials have been encouraging people to talk to their health care provider about getting vaccinated against COVID-19.
The Fritz Pollard Center COVID-19 testing site, located at 2419 Second Ave. N., Grand Forks, will be open on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Testing will be from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Jan. 17, with rapid antigen testing ending at 10:45 a.m.
The vaccination site at the Grand Cities Mall and the main office of Grand Forks Public Health will be closed Monday in observance of the holiday.
“Our goal is to ensure that we have the health care resources available when they are needed for anyone who needs care, whether it is care for COVID-19 or any other health care need,” Swanson added. “We need the public’s support through this current wave to ensure our residents stay healthy.”