Governor Tim Walz joined a COVID-19 press call Tuesday afternoon to announce testing enhancements that will make getting a test and receiving results a more efficient process throughout Minnesota.
The enhancement features numerous sites in Minnesota where Minnesotans can receive a saliva test. One such site that has conducted more than 8,000 tests since opening Sept. 23 is located in Duluth. Nine more saliva testing sites will be opening in the coming weeks, including three of which are opening this week or next week.
- Winona: located at the Winona Mall. It'll be open Wednesday-Sunday, beginning this week.
- Moorhead: located at the former Thomas Edison High School. It opens this Saturday and will be open Friday-Tuesday.
- Brooklyn Park: located at the former Office Max building in the Starlight Center. This testing site will be open seven days a week beginning next Tuesday, Oct. 20.
Six additional sites – two in greater Minnesota and four in the Twin Cities metro – will open by the end of October. Specific site locations have not been announced.
"The real fear is folks who have this and are contagious and don't know it, and they inadvertently spread it to others," said Walz, noting that Minnesota's level of community transmission – when it's unclear where someone contracted the virus – is rising.
Saliva testing is easy and painless, according to Duluth Mayor Emily Larson, who joined the press call.
The testing enhancements are being launched as Minnesota is surrounded by states that are experiencing record numbers of new cases and hospitalizations, while Minnesota itself is also home to growing numbers. As of Oct. 12, the state's hospitals are caring for 481 COVID-19 patients, 136 of whom are in intensive care.
"It's obvious now that the Upper Midwest is a hot spot." Walz said. "You can go from stable and in a good position to building emergency hospitals on your fairgrounds – like they have in Wisconsin, Arizona and New York – very, very quickly."
Minnesota Department of Health Assistant Commissioner Dan Huff said Minnesota's testing has increased by more than 65% since the beginning of September, yet "cases are growing faster than testing."
"That is not good," said Huff.
What's more is that the health department is working on rolling out an at-home saliva testing kit that is expected to be made available in the next few weeks. Anyone will be able to register online and receive an at-home saliva testing kit, then have it sent to a processing site in Oakdale.
The lab will be able to process more than 30,000 saliva tests per day, which will bring the state's total ability to process all types of COVID-19 tests to more around 60,000 tests a day.