Moorhead COVID-19 testing site looks to expand after Fargo site turns away Moorhead residents
The state needs to approve the plan, which it has rejected before due to staffing issues.
MOORHEAD — Plans are in the works to ramp up COVID-19 testing in Moorhead.
Part of the reason is the omicron variant that is running rampant in our region. On top of that, public health leaders in North Dakota are asking certain Minnesota residents to stay on their side of the river when they get tested.
Clay County's only mass public testing site is the old Thomas Edison School. It was supposed to close at the end of December, but due to rising cases, it will remain open until at least the spring.
There was a steady stream of people getting tested Wednesday, Jan. 12.
"I'm seeing some friends over the weekend, so I wanted to do any precautions I can," commented Jacob Shilman after getting tested.
"I had to get tested to play hockey," said Lynze Swanson.
The state testing site in Moorhead is operated by Vault Health.
Four thousand people got tested on Monday alone at Fargo Cass Public Health's test site on 25th Street South, overwhelming the center. They cited the omicron variant and people getting tested daily to stay employed.
The test site also hung up a sign stating they do not test students or staff from Minnesota schools.
"I did contact Moorhead Public Schools and asked them to be sure that they let parents and students and faculty know that we really need to utilize our Moorhead testing site as much as possible," said Kathy McKay, the public health administrator for Clay County.
It appears part of the confusion is when Moorhead Area Public Schools sends out a close contact notification, as it does not specify where to get tested. On Fridays the district admits it sent families to Fargo, since the Moorhead site is closed.
The district says it was notified over the weekend to stop, and said, "Unfortunately, not all families talk to the schools before going for testing."
"In the last month our Vault testing site has been overwhelmed, they can't meet the demand," said McKay.
Compared to the Fargo test site, the number of tests in Moorhead is much lower. About 1,200 tests took place in Moorhead all of last week.
When the Moorhead site first opened in 2020, it only offered a saliva test, but it now also offers rapid tests.
Citing the increased demand, the county's top health leader has asked the state to expand testing in Moorhead. Previous attempts have been rejected due to a lack of staff.
"We have to alleviate the burden in our whole metro area, so that's why I really decided we needed more testing times and hours. If we could 7 days a week, 8-6, we would still be overwhelmed with testing," explained McKay.
The county hopes to hear from the state next week about the expanded days and hours.