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First COVID-19 saliva testing site in Minnesota opens Wednesday

It's in Duluth, and comes amid a wider effort to make saliva tests more available.

The first COVID-19 saliva testing site in Minnesota will open this Wednesday, located at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center (DECC) on the North Shore.

The first-of-its-kind site is a pilot location, and will offer saliva tests free of charge to any Minnesotan who believes they need to be tested for the virus.

It comes amid a wider push by the Minnesota Department of Health and the Walz Administration to make saliva testing more widely available in the state.

In August, Walz announced the state had entered a partnership with two saliva testing companies that will see the state have the ability to test and process 30,000 people a day, with the program set to launch in October.

These tests will be obtainable either through the mail while undergoing telehealth supervision, at various mobile testing sites that tour the state, and at one of 10 planned semi-permanent testing centers across Minnesota, of which Duluth is the first.

Saliva testing kits have also been made available to Minnesota teachers and school staff, while the health department has been running pop-up COVID-19 testing facilities in parts of Greater Minnesota that are susceptible to significant outbreaks, as part of an effort to reduce community transmission of the virus.

"Our battle against COVID-19 is far from over," said Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm. "The high number of new cases we’ve seen in recent days shows the outbreak could quickly spread out of control, so it’s important to stay a step or two ahead. Innovative partnerships are one of the ways we do that.

"This next milestone allows us to expand and diversify our testing options available to Minnesotans. Increased access to testing and identifying positive cases as early as possible is a critical way to keep schools and the economy as open as possible. While testing alone will not suppress the virus, higher testing volumes are a central part of our strategy to manage the virus."

MDH says it will observe the demand for testing seen at the DECC pilot site before determining the size and location needed for the nine other sites.

The Duluth site will be open Wednesday through Friday from noon to 7p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

It's open for walk-ins, but people are encouraged to register in advance and make an appointment to prevent crowding and long lines. Patients will be asked for their insurance details, but only so the state can bill their healthcare providers. If you don't have one, or if your health plan doesn't cover all of the cost, the state will cover it.

You can find out more information at the COVID-19 Community Testing: Saliva Testing

A saliva test requires less PPE than a traditional swab as it is self-collected under the supervision of a healthcare professional, and is also less invasive than the current diagnostic test in adults, which requires a swab towards the back of the nose.

The test requires patients to spit into a funnel attached to a small test tube, and once enough saliva is collected, the tube is closed with a plug that releases a preservative into the sample, with the sample then returned in a prepaid envelope.

Results of the saliva test are expected to take between 48 and 72 hours.

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