Number of COVID-19 cases in Traill County sliced in half by state

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Posted: Friday, May 29, 2020 6:06 am

The North Dakota Department of Health has cut the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Traill County from 20 to 10 following several false-positive tests caused by a machine malfunction.

Traill District Health Unit Director Brenda Stallman told county leaders Wednesday that the false positives stemmed from a mass-testing event May 18 at Luther Memorial Home in Mayville.

Stallman said contaminants in two testing machines resulted in more than 80 positive cases of the virus statewide before health officials became aware of the malfunction.

“It’s a very rare occurrence,” Stallman said in an online meeting Wednesday. “It’s not expected to happen again but we all know that machines can fail.”

More than 300 residents and staff at Luther Memorial Home were tested for COVID-19 earlier this month.

After the discovery of the machine malfunction, those individuals who previously were identified as virus carriers were retested and state officials adjusted Traill County’s COVID-19 cases from 20 to 10, Stallman said.

County Commissioner Les Amb of Portland raised concerns Wednesday with the false positives and the time that elapsed before retesting occurred. 

People who came in close contact with staff and residents who were in inaccurately identified as virus carriers were quarantined and forced to miss work, Amb said.

“Why can’t they retest sooner? They were quarantining businesspeople and that’s quite a loss on their end not being able to work and burning up vacation time,” he said.

Stallman responded that state health officials couldn’t automatically call for retesting everyone from the mass-testing event May 18 in Mayville.

“They had to retrace those that were affected back to the machines so they could correctly identify those who were falsely positive,” she said. 

Traill County State’s Attorney Charlie Stock said employers should be able to recoup lost income under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

The federal legislation provides funds for U.S. workers who are required to take 14 days of sick or medical leave related to COVID-19.

In other virus-related news, Stallman said 344 people were tested for COVID-19 during a mass-testing event Saturday in the parking lot at MayPort-CG High School.

Those tests resulted in one positive test of the virus from a resident from a neighboring county who was in Mayville for a retest, Stallman said.

Another mass-testing event may be scheduled in the near future in Hillsboro, she said.

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