Over 700 tested at mass COVID-19 drive-thru site in Grand Forks

Published: Apr. 23, 2020 at 5:43 PM CDT
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Mass drive-thru testing for COVID-19 is wrapped up around 5 p.m. Thursday evening at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks. Health officials say just over 700 people were tested.

The testing was originally only for first responders, employees of J.R. Simplot, as well as those who either worked or were close with employees of LM Wind Power, however health officials opened the testing up to the general public at 2:45 this afternoon.

"(The National Guard) is able to generate a large number of tests collected without a lot of exposure because people can stay in their cars,” John Bernstrom with the City of Grand Forks said.

Bernstrom says although they advertised today's testing for Simplot employees, health officials weren't sure if that was actually going to happen or not.

“We got word from Simplot late last night that they were not going to reach out to their employees and let them know. So, we may have Simplot employees come through here, we may not,” Bernstrom said.

In a statement, Simplot says they apologize for the misunderstanding, and said due to the last-minute plans they ‘were not able to communicate to employees' as they were in the process of closing the facility for cleaning and maintenance.

Simplot says they are temporarily closed in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, and says they have yet to have any of their almost 400 employees test positive.

“It wasn’t mandated to get a test. By no means is it you have to go get a test or you lose your job, anything like that,” Bernstrom said.

Bernstrom says despite the many planning meetings he’s been in over the years, he never thought this would be his reality twice in one week already.

“You sit there in those plans and you kind of walk out of the meetings like, ‘Man, we’re planning for apocalyptic type stuff.’ But the plans are in place, and now we get into this and I’m glad those meetings happened,” he said.

Bernstrom says he expects today’s test results to start coming in within the next 48 to 72 hours.