BISMARCK — North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum spoke about the state's COVID-19 response with President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, May 13.
Sitting about 6 feet from the president, Burgum touted the state's testing capacity and low rate of positives in a press conference following the meeting. North Dakota ranks among the top states in the country in testing per capita. Burgum accredited the state's comparatively successful COVID-19 response to remote geography, temporary business closures and the personal responsibility of North Dakotans.
Burgum expressed gratitude to Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and the health experts who have directed the national response to the pandemic. Like every other state, North Dakota has received an unprecedented amount of federal funding during the pandemic, including $1.25 billion via the CARES Act.
"We appreciate the opportunity to share our coronavirus successes and challenges with President Trump, whose partnership has been instrumental to our whole-of-government approach to saving lives and livelihoods during this pandemic," Burgum said in a press release.
The first-term Republican governor was joined on the visit by U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., state Commerce Commissioner Michelle Kommer and Gov. Jared Polis, D-Colo.
Burgum told Forum News Service after the meeting Trump and coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx indicated their pleasure with the state's "data-driven approach" to testing, contact tracing and reopening businesses. He said Trump and Birx were receptive to his suggestions on how the state and its health care providers could have more flexibility in spending certain federal funds.
The governor noted that he and the White House personnel spoke about managing outbreaks in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. There are currently about 303 cases in residents and employees of the facilities and 29 residents have died, according to the state Department of Health.
Burgum also brought up North Dakota's tenfold increase in testing capacity, but he noted that there's still work to do in the Fargo area, according to the release. Cass County, which includes Fargo and West Fargo, accounts for nearly 60% of the active COVID-19 cases but only about 22% of the total tests done in North Dakota.
Before any mention of the state's virus response, Trump turned to Burgum at the press conference and spoke about the North Dakota State University football team, which capped off its season in January with an eighth FCS title in nine years. Trump chuckled when Burgum, an NDSU graduate, reminded him the team is called the Bison.
"We were all set to have (the team come to the White House), and then the plague came in from China," Trump said. "We'll have to do a rain check."