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Asymptomatic COVID-19 nurses allowed to stay on job in North Dakota amid staff shortage

Asymptomatic COVID-19 nurses allowed to stay on job in North Dakota amid staff shortage

North Dakota is allowing health care workers with COVID-19 who are asymptomatic to keep working in coronavirus units to make up for a staff shortage.

The extraordinary move, announced by Gov. Doug Burgum (R) on Monday, comes as hospitals hit their capacity amid a rise in coronavirus cases, Grand Forks Herald reported. Hospitals are also short on beds for COVID-19 patients.

According to Burgum, hospital administrators made the request to keep infected health care workers on the job, in accordance with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Burgum noted that workers in COVID-19 units already wear protective gear.

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North Dakota hospitals are implementing “surge” plans, with some halting elective surgeries, the newspaper reported.

Burgum also announced that new rapid COVID-19 tests would be sent out to hospitals, nursing homes, schools and colleges. The tests can reportedly produce results in about 15 minutes.

North Dakota, as of Monday, is now facing "high-risk" levels of COVID-19 infections, prompting recommendations that restaurants, bars and venues limit their capacity to 25 percent.

The state has been reporting record levels of coronavirus cases recently, much like other parts of the country. North Dakota has more than 10,800 active COVID-19 cases.

Despite those numbers, Burgum has resisted calls from health experts to enact a statewide mask mandate, instead choosing to encourage mask use and relying on "personal responsibility."