North Dakota launches free rapid COVID-19 testing for K-12 staff

Mass testing for COVID-19 took place April 25 at the Fargodome. C.S. Hagen / The Forum

FARGO — The North Dakota Department of Health will begin rolling out free rapid testing for K-12 teachers, staff and administrators this week in an effort to isolate asymptomatic cases of COVID-19.

With support from local public health agencies and the North Dakota National Guard, the pilot project aims to slow the spread of the coronavirus inside schools. Students will not be tested as part of the project, state officials said in a news release.

“These rapid tests are a new tool in the toolbox that will help us break the chain of transmission by helping to identify the silent epidemic of COVID-positive individuals unknowingly spreading the virus,” said Joshua Wynne, the state’s chief health strategist and dean of the University of North Dakota School of Medicine & Health Sciences.

Gov. Doug Burgum said the tests are meant to help schools remain open or return to in-person learning. "Conducting this testing before and after Thanksgiving will also provide insights and help us fine-tune our strategy for reducing community spread, thereby protecting our health care capacity," Burgum said.


The rapid test, known as the Abbott BinaxNOW point-of-care antigen test, involves a nasal swab and produces results within 15 minutes, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The federal government has allocated 220,000 of these tests to the state, and tests will begin this week in Fargo, West Fargo and Dickinson school districts. The program will expand to more school districts in the coming days and weeks, state officials said.

The testing will continue until Dec. 31.

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