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State will look at expanding lab capacity for COVID-19 testing with private companies

Dave Thompson
Prairie Public

Governor Burgum has a goal: increase testing for COVID-19 to 4000 tests per day this month, and 6000 per day in June.

The state isn’t there – yet.

And the issue might be lab capacity. The state lab in Bismarck has added staff and has been working around the clock to process tests. But Burgum said that won’t be enough.

"To get to those higher numbers, we's going to need private sector partners," Burgum said at his Thursday briefing.

Burgum says in most states, private labs are doing most of the test processing. Burgum said in Minnesota, the Mayo Clinic is doing a lot of the work, and in South Dakota, it’s Sanford.  He said in North Dakota, the state lab has done more than 80 percent of the work, with University laboratories helping out.

"Our state lab has been heroic," Burgum said. "The National Guard team members are also there, and without them, we wouldn't have been able to get to three shifts a day, and more than three times the capacity. But for us to double again, and double beyond that, it's going to take private-public partnerships."

Burgum said he hasn't identified potential partners, but his administration is having discussions to identify those private labs.

"We've shown agility of a state asset," Burgum said. "But at some point, public-private partnerships make sense, because, whether it's one year, two years or three years from now, we may not want a state asset than can do 10,000 tests a day when we don't need to do 10,000 tests a day."

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