GRAND FORKS — North Dakota’s higher education system is expanding its coronavirus testing plan to include more cities and testing opportunities for college students before they head back to campus this month.

The North Dakota University System, with the state’s health department, originally planned to hold 34 testing events in about a dozen cities across the state. Now, more cities and events are being added.

The testing events are scheduled through Aug. 25 in Fargo, Bismarck, Grand Forks, Wahpeton, Jamestown, Mayville, Bottineau, Minot, Devils Lake, Belcourt, Fort Totten, Fort Yates, New Town, Williston and Dickinson, and other smaller communities across the state.

The dates and locations can be found at www.ndus.edu/gettested/.

Billie Jo Lorius, communications director for the NDUS, said the schedule on the system’s website is fluid and more dates and locations may be added as the health department works on its schedule.

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NDUS Chancellor Mark Hagerott and State Board of Higher Education student member Erica Solberg participated in Gov. Doug Burgum’s weekly press conference Tuesday, Aug. 4, to speak about the system’s plan.

Hagerott said the system realized it was making it “too hard” for students to get tested before they return to campus later this summer. The expanded test sites should allow students to test in or near their hometowns before they go to campus.

Students should take the COVID-19 test approximately five days before leaving home, the system said. That way, students can know they are healthy as they leave home and head to campus.

Participants are encouraged to pre-register at testreg.nd.gov/.

Students, faculty and staff are encouraged, but not required, to get tested for COVID-19. Hagerott said the state's universities and colleges should not require testing of students because "there's a downside to being a police state."

“As a former military guy, there's just lots of parallels here. ... There's a surge of people coming and you want to make sure that something doesn't get in the gate,” Hagerott said. “Now, some will (get to campus without having taken a test) obviously, right? So, if we have testing, and if they find they're infected, we'd ask them to stay at home until they've recovered from this.”

Hagerott anticipates the demand for testing may increase as colleges get closer to their start date around Aug. 24. How subsequent testing will function is still being discussed for the system. Hagerott said subsequent testing may look different on each campus.

Solberg, who is a student at North Dakota State University, said she feels safe returning to campus and plans to take in-person classes.

“NDSU… has done an excellent job outlining the kind of procedures, safety precautions that we do have to follow and many of my professors have reached out and shared some of their plans,” she said. “But at any time if I don't feel safe, I feel very confident that I can still get the same educational value online.”