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Amidon, a town of 20 people, looks back on the pandemic and the state’s first COVID-19 testing site

Published: Mar. 20, 2021 at 7:06 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Slope County and its population of about 725 people were at the center of “Operation Drive In” last Spring.

Amidon is one of the smallest county seats in the nation. It was also the place of the very first coronavirus mass testing site in the state. A year later, residents are looking back to see how far they’ve come and where they’re headed next with the pandemic.

The only noise in this part of the county comes from Sheriff Rory Teigen and his patrol car.

Last year the Slope County Fairgrounds became a testing ground for COVID-19 and how the health department and National Guard would handle the pandemic response.

“What would we do in case of a pandemic? They always said: ‘it’s not if it’s going to come it’s when it’s going to come’,” said Teigen.

Dick Frederick said it’s the most overwhelming response he’s seen in his almost 40 year career as emergency manager.

“That’s...kind of a first of its kind for anybody, let alone us down here in rural Slope County,” said Frederick.

Amidon and its 20 residents don’t have a grocery store or gas station which left some feeling vulnerable when case numbers increased across the state.

“We couldn’t go anywhere. I mean to even go shopping in Dickinson, you just didn’t [go]. You run to Walmart and ran out,” said Slope County resident Kristine Jacobson.

But its small population allowed community members to get the COVID-19 vaccine in Bowman.

“There were a lot of people who were a little spooked about trying the vaccination in wasn’t an overwhelming number, but it was available to them,” said Frederick.

Colleen Germann talked with her friends about her chance to get the vaccine.

“Finally I got my first shot and in another week, I’ll have my second shot and then I’ll feel like we’ll be released from jail,” said Germann.

Sherry Adams the executive director for the Southwest District Health Unit is one of the many people who coordinated with the National Guard and health department during Operation Drive In.

“So we figured if we found positive [COVID-19 cases] in Amidon then we figured that COVID was most likely throughout North Dakota,” said Adams.

Over the past year she’s traveled around the state helping with testing and on Friday became an honorary North Dakota National Guard commander in Bismarck.

“It was definitely an honor and a privilege to have worked with the National Guard and our local partners and our state partners over the past year,” said Adams.

Adams said her focus has shifted to getting people vaccinated and to keep smiling until the pandemic is over.

Only 31 people from Slope County have tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began. Its last active was on February 23rd.

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