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Concerned about hospital capacity, Burgum puts entire state in the 'high risk' category

With COVID-19 cases still rising in North Dakota, Gov. Doug Burgum has now raised the threat level across the state to "high risk."

Some counties had been in the "moderate risk" category.

Burgum told reporters he’s concerned about hospital capacity – which he said is under pressure, due to the COVID cases.

"We know that we could be facing a situation in our state in the next two to three weeks, where we would be severely constrained on hospital capacity," Burgum said.

Burgum said staffing remains an issue in hospitals. He said a new state health officer order is designed to help.

"That order is now going to allow asymptomatic COVID-positive health care workers to work in COVID units of licensed health care facilities, so long as they remain asymptomatic, and additional precautions are taken, as recommended by the CDC and the state Health Department, to protect both the worker and the patients in that unit," Burgum said.

Burgum said as North Dakota starts to roll out its new “rapid testing” equipment for COVID-19, the first priority for those rapid tests will be health care workers.

The state is receiving the new BinaxNow tests – where results can be known in as little as 15 minutes.

"When a health care worker is tested, the tests get sent away, and it could be 24 to 48 hours before they get a response to find out if they're negative," Burgum said. "In the meanwhile, while they're in thta waiting period,  they're effectively on the sideline."

Burgum said most of those tests do come back as negative.

"If we could have given them that result in 15 minutes instead of two days, that frees up, in some cases for some hospitals, dozens of people."

And Burgum is again making the plea that people take the steps to reduce the spread of the virus – including wearing masks, practicing physical distancing, and frequent hand washing.