North Dakota could be heading toward the same difficulties experienced by other states in testing for the coronavirus, but the state Department of Health is looking to employ special equipment that would boost its testing capacity.

North Dakota’s first known case of the virus was confirmed Wednesday night by Gov. Doug Burgum: a Ward County man in his 60s who had recently traveled to the East Coast. He’s recovering at home..

The Health Department currently has the resources to test about 550 people suspected of having the virus, said Kirby Kruger, the state director of the Division of Disease Control.

As of late Thursday afternoon, 41 people had been tested with 28 pending.

South Dakota testing more exposed

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South Dakota health officials are testing seven people with signs of coronavirus who are linked to already confirmed cases COVID-19 in the state, Gov. Kristi Noem said Thursday, March 12.

The state is processing tests for those people, among 41 total tests, and will have results of all pending tests at noon Friday, Noem said.

The state has eight confirmed cases in the state, including one fatality, announced earlier this week. Work by public health officials has established that the infected South Dakotans didn't attend any large community event and had contact with an average of 10 people, Noem said.

All the confirmed cases had a history of recent travel outside the state, Noem said, clarifying previous information from the state that one of the individuals confirmed to have coronavirus had not traveled.

South Dakota's public health lab is expecting a "surge" of coronavirus test requests, and is gearing up to operate seven days a week to handle the demand.

Minnesota cases rise

Health officials reported an additional four cases of coronavirus in the state on Thursday, March 12, bringing the statewide count to nine.

Officials also initiated a recommendation that schools begin so-called "social distancing" measures to reduce crowding of students, though state officials specifically refrained from calling for school closures at this time.

The new cases were identified in Ramsey, Dakota, Hennepin and Stearns counties. All are recovering at home and are believed to have had a recent history of international or domestic travel to affected locations or direct exposure to a person known to have COVID-19.

Mayo develops new test

A new coronavirus test to detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes the respiratory disease known as COVID-19, in clinical samples has been developed, Mayo Clinic announced on its website Thursday, March 12.

The test has been fully validated and will be submitted by Mayo Clinic to the Food and Drug Administration for review and emergency use authorization.

Dr. Matthew Binnicker, a clinical microbiologist and director of the Clinical Virology Laboratory at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, said results can now be ready within 24 hours.

Universities change course

  • South Dakota's public university system will extend its spring break a week and cancel nonessential travel because of the coronavirus.
  • North Dakota State University announced Thursday it would suspend in-person classes into early April but continue to hold classes online. The University of North Dakota will be moving to remote instruction for approximately two weeks beginning Monday, March 23.
  • The University of Minnesota system on Wednesday suspended all in-person classes at its five campuses until at least April 1.
  • Minnesota State colleges and universities suspended classes until March 23 for the 32 schools currently on spring break. The five scheduled to begin their break next Monday, March 16, will head back to class on March 30.

Around the region

  • North Dakota's Democratic-NPL Party has canceled its state convention scheduled to take place March 19-22 in Minot "due to concerns over the transmission of COVID-19," officials announced Thursday.

  • Republican Party of Minnesota Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan released a statement regarding the state GOP's decision to postpone party convention operations through April 15. “This decision did not come lightly, but it was important for our party to ensure we are looking out for the health, safety and well-being of Minnesotans first.”

  • LeadingAge Minnesota and Care Providers of Minnesota on Thursday advised nursing homes and assisted living providers throughout Minnesota to take action immediately to restrict visitor access to only essential visits because of the growing number of coronavirus cases in Minnesota and nationwide.

  • March Madness joined the list of events canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak when the NCAA announced Thursday that it was canceling all remaining winter and spring championships, including basketball and hockey. The NHL, MLS and MLB also put their seasons on hold following the NBA's decision to suspend its season indefinitely. All-Stars Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz have tested positive.

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