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The COVID-19 testing site at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center will double its capacity next week amid an increased demand for tests.

According to a Friday announcement from Gov. Tim Walz, the state’s testing site at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center will expand from 5,000 square feet to 10,000 square feet starting on Monday.

The increase in space means the site can administer 1,000 tests per day compared to its current capacity of 500 tests. The site will also change its days of operation from Monday through Tuesday to Tuesday through Saturday to accommodate weekend testing.

“Testing is still one of the best tools we have in our fight against COVID-19, and we’re doing whatever we can to ensure every Minnesotan has access to it,” Walz said in a statement.

“Getting tested at the DECC is easy, low-barrier, and no cost to you. Minnesotans in and around Duluth looking for a test have a great option right in their backyard.”

Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm cited the start of classes and seasonal changes for the increased testing demand.

“With school back in session and activities moving indoors as the seasons change, testing remains an important tool for protecting our families and communities from COVID-19,” Malcolm said in a statement.

“By expanding our robust, collaborative testing program, we have removed testing obstacles for families across the state.”

In September, St. Louis County saw 2,117 reported cases of COVID-19, the highest since December, according to the county’s department of health.

But with a vaccine now available, COVID-19 deaths are down in St. Louis County compared to last winter, with 7 deaths in September compared to 97 confirmed deaths in December.

The rise in cases is also straining the state’s ICU bed capacity, with 53 of the total 1,161 available Wednesday, according to the Star Tribune. There were five open beds in northern Minnesota. 

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