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In bid to limit community spread, MDH to expand free COVID-19 testing events across state

It's part of a four-week blitz to expand access to testing.

The Minnesota Department of Health has announced a four-week series of free COVID-19 testing events that will be held across the state in a bid to get to grips with community transmission of the virus.

With COVID-19 cases rocketing in neighboring states – the Dakotas, Iowa, and Wisconsin are among the 10 states where cases are rising the fastest – health officials are anxious that Minnesota doesn't follow suit.

Case rates have remained relatively stable in Minnesota while they've been rising elsewhere, but Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm says there's no room for complacency and one of the big issues the state is facing is the level of community transmission – which is when someone who contracts the virus doesn't know where they got it from.

To that end, MDH has announced it will be offering "no barrier" testing events in communities all over the state over the next month, which will be free to anyone, will not require insurance or IDs, and will be available whether you have symptoms or not.

The first three of these events will happen in Grand Rapids, Pine City and Waseca, with future locations communicated in the coming days. MDH says the locations selected are either seeing workplace clusters of COVID-19, are near to bordering states, or haven't yet experienced larger-scale testing.

"This strategy will help increase the geographic balance of testing across Minnesota and respond where the health risk is greatest," MDH said.

"The troublesome trends in our neighboring states are a reminder of how quickly we could go from walking the cliff’s edge to tumbling over it,” said Malcolm.

"We are deeply concerned about the spike of cases in communities all over the state where people don’t know how they contracted the virus. Community spread driven by people who don’t know they have it puts those most vulnerable to the worst complications at grave risk. It’s more critical than ever to test a lot of people and identify positive cases early to slow that spread. Testing lets us know who needs to isolate and who else may be at risk."

Testing will be conducted using a nasal swab that will be processed by Mayo Clinic Laboratories or the University of Minnesota.

Some of the staffing at the events will be provided by the Minnesota National Guard.

Here are the first three events:

Sept. 23
10 a.m.-6 p.m. Itasca County Fairgrounds, 1336 Fairgrounds Rd, Grand Rapids. Drive-thru event: Schedule an appointment here

Sept. 23-24
12-6 p.m., Pine City Armory, 1305 Main St, Pine City. Walk-up event. Schedule an appointment here.

Sept. 23-24
12-6 p.m., Waseca High School Gym, 1717 2nd St NW, Waseca. Walk-up event. Schedule an appointment here.

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