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5 things to know today: Orphan wells, Fighting COVID-19, Large gatherings, In-person graduations, Antibody testing

North Dakota oil production has plunged in the face of a collapse in demand from the coronavirus crisis and plunging prices caused by a global glut exacerbated by a price war triggered by Russia and Saudi Arabia. Forum file photo

1. North Dakota has $33M plan to keep oilfield workers on the job, plug orphan wells

North Dakota officials plan to spend $33 million from the state’s federal coronavirus response allotment on a project that would keep several hundred skilled oilfield workers on the job.

The money will be used to plug an estimated 400 to 550 wells in a project that could keep 500 Oil Patch workers on the job for six months, Lynn Helms, director of the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources, said Friday, May 15. “Great jobs program,” he said.

Once the economy recovers and the petroleum industry restart happens, labor availability will be a “serious issue,” so maintaining that trained workforce is a priority of a multi-agency task force that is planning to help the Oil Patch bounce back, Helms said.

Read more from The Forum's C.S. Hagen

2. 'I can't take much more of this — it's killing me': Fargo police officer recalls fight with COVID-19


Mike Kjera.jpg
Mike Kjera

Fargo Police Officer Mike Kjera, 56, admits it — he was a COVID-19 skeptic.

“At first, I was a doubter,” he said. “All the masks, what good is that going to do?”

But that changed after a three-week ordeal with the disease which left him exhausted, 15 pounds lighter and a believer that the virus causing the pandemic is nothing to mess around with.

Read more from The Forum's Tracy Briggs

3. Burgum opens up North Dakota to larger gatherings with stipulations

3D print of a SARS-CoV-2—also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19—virus particle. The virus surface (blue) is covered with spike proteins (red) that enable the virus to enter and infect human cells. National Institutes of Health

Gov. Doug Burgum announced Friday, May 15, he has moved the state from the high risk for contracting coronavirus to moderate risk and thus opened up the state to larger gatherings of people.


Guidelines would be released and finalized late Friday night or Saturday, but he said they basically would allow an events venue to be at 50% of its capacity starting immediately, up to 250 people.

It would mean as the summer rolls around that weddings, receptions, banquets, sporting events, concerts and other larger gatherings can be held.

Previously, music and entertainment venues, as well recreational and sports arenas, had been closed under previous orders.

Read more from The Forum's Barry Amundson

4. Fargo, West Fargo schools to hold in-person graduations


Fargo Public Schools announced Friday, May 15, that high school graduation ceremonies will be in-person events and they will be held on dates originally planned.

The district previously said that due to the coronavirus outbreak, graduations would be virtual celebrations held on their scheduled dates, with physical celebrations in late July.


Under the new plan, in-person graduations are slated for May, and Fargo Public Schools will forgo holding graduation ceremonies in July.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum has updated an earlier K-12 executive order and made it possible for school districts to host in-person graduations under social distancing guidelines.

Read more from The Forum's Dave Olson

5. Catalyst Medical Center offers COVID-19 antibody testing


There is a new opportunity for people who have been sick in the past couple months and wondered if they had COVID-19.

Catalyst Medical Center in Fargo started doing coronavirus antibody tests on Friday, May 15. They are among the first in the metro to do such tests by appointment.

The tests are meant to check a patient's antibody levels of the COVID-19 virus. Dr. Susan Mathison, CEO and founder of Catalyst, said there is a difference between IGM and IGG antibodies. Catalyst tests IGG, telling them if you've had COVID-19 and what your immune levels are.


Nurses there will do a simple blood draw and send it to a lab in the region. Sanford's Broadway location will soon have a lab capable of running antibody tests.

Watch the video from WDAY's Nick Broadway

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