The North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH) is adjusting COVID-19 testing and contract tracing strategies to address a recent uptick in confirmed coronavirus cases among residents and staff at long-term care facilities.
The State Lab is using the state’s Vulnerable Population Protection Plan (VP3) team to assist in strategic adjustments, including:
- Testing of long-term care residents and staff has been prioritized over all other testing, and every effort will be made to return results from long-term care tests within 24 hours of testing to allow for immediate isolation and cohorting, or grouping together, of positive residents and staff and quarantine of close contacts.
- Contact tracing and follow-up with long-term care residents and health care workers also has been prioritized through the NDDoH.
- The NDDoH will begin to implement a plan to use emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and others to conduct test swabbing and is prioritizing approximately 200 nurses from the NDDoH’s Department Operations Center to provide staff coverage as needed in long-term care facilities and other congregate settings.
- The federal government is providing the state with Abbott BinaxNOW point-of-care testing that can be used at long-term care facilities that will assist facilities when residents and health care workers present with symptoms.
- The state is continuing to look at innovations in long-term care settings relating to screening, testing, disinfection and telehealth to continue to protect some of our most vulnerable citizens.
“Protecting the most vulnerable is our top priority in North Dakota’s COVID-19 response, and since the beginning the state has taken proactive measures to safeguard residents and staff in long-term care facilities and other congregate settings,” State Health Officer Dr. Paul Mariani said. “With these adjustments, we are placing even more emphasis on doing everything we can to protect residents and staff while still allowing for safe, responsible visitation that is so important to residents’ mental health and well-being. The recent increase in cases in these facilities is a reflection of the increased spread of coronavirus in our communities at large, which makes it even more important for North Dakotans to practice good COVID-19 etiquette: social distance, wear a mask, wash hands frequently and avoid large gatherings.”