With 50 states and the federal government competing for scarce COVID-19 testing supplies, North Dakota came out on the short end Monday.
The state was forced to cancel mass testing events in Fargo and Williston because it didn't have enough material to run novel coronavirus samples through its test machinery.
"We're competing against all 50 states, FEMA [the Federal Emergency Management Agency], other federal agencies, trying to move [supply] orders to hot spots, of which we're not," Gov. Doug Burgum said at a press briefing.
"We now have thousands of tests that have been collected that have not been processed, so we'll have some big numbers to report," in the coming days, he said.
Mass testing events had been scheduled for Monday in Fargo and Tuesday in Williston, state and local officials said.
The events were intended to test essential workers and people who have had close contact with patients diagnosed with COVID-19, the infection caused by the coronavirus. Officials had hoped to test up to 500 people at the Monday event at the Fargodome.
Also canceled were several testing events planned for long-term care facilities.
The problem is a shortage of plates at the state testing lab, called "deep well plates," on which test samples are placed to be run through a high-volume machine called a Thermo Fisher unit, said a spokeswoman for the North Dakota Joint Information Center. Most of the state's testing is being handled by the state lab, which is running 24 hours a day and processing about 2,000 tests daily.
After putting out a call to state universities, officials located 100 of the plates in a laboratory at North Dakota State University. Those plates will be enough for 9,600 tests, Burgum said.
Statewide, North Dakota reported 1,225 cases of COVID-19 through Sunday, with 25 deaths, according to the state Department of Health. The state's positive test rate of 3.5% is the fifth-lowest in the nation, Burgum said.