The Minnesota Department of Health has launched a new COVID-19 saliva testing site in Carver County in an attempt to dampen the outbreak of the B117 U.K. virus variant in the area.
MDH announced Monday that the new pop-up saliva testing center will open at the Chanhassen Recreation Center this week, offering saliva testing between Thursday and Saturday this week and next week.
COVID cases have increased by 62% in Carver County over the course of February, with state officials identifying at least 27 cases of the U.K. variant of SARS-CoV-2, which is more transmissible than the most common strain of the virus.
MDH says it has traced 84 cases of COVID-19 back to school-sponsored and club youth sports, which in turn have led to an increase in cases linked to local gyms and fitness centers.
Cases in Carver County are now approaching the levels seen in October, which eventually peaked in November, with MDH saying 35% of cases are in the under 20s.
The department said Monday that its concern is that the "highly contagious variant has the potential to spread exponentially and quickly across youth who are largely unprotected by vaccines."
The department recommended a two-week "pause" on youth sports as the state tries to tackle the COVID outbreak, and some schools have responded by shelving all non-varsity sports practices and games for now, while some recreational businesses have also paused activities.
"Testing is a key component of our strategy to protect Minnesotans from COVID-19,” said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm.
"The variants circulating now present added risk that we may see another surge in cases and we need everyone to do their part to prevent that from happening. When combined with social distancing, masking, avoiding crowds and staying home when sick, testing can help us slow the spread of COVID-19 while we work tirelessly to get as many Minnesotans as we can vaccinated.”
Appointments for the new pop-up testing center are recommended but not required. You can find out more about how to get tested here.
You can also order at-home saliva testing kits from MDH. You can find out how to do this here.