The State of Minnesota is expanding its free testing options as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise and the demand for testing increases.

Gov. Tim Walz on Wednesday said the community testing sits in Mankato, Moorhead, St. Cloud and Winona will be open an additional day, allowing the sites to increase their weekly testing capacity by about 500 tests. 

That brings the maximum weekly capacity of testing per site to about 2,500, a news release said.

“Minnesotans deserve to have more no-cost COVID-19 testing options, and we’re stepping up to expand access to that testing across the state,” Walz said in a news release. “Testing for COVID-19 keeps our children safe in the classroom and provides peace of mind to parents and families. 

"Through the at-home testing program and community sites in cities around the state, Minnesotans have more opportunities to choose the option that is best for their families," he added.

Testing will be added on Sundays in Moorhead and Winona starting Oct. 17. The sites will be open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays.

At the Mankato and St. Cloud testing sites, testing will be added on Fridays starting Oct. 15. The sites will be open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday.  

Testing at community testing sites was up about 10% last week compared to the prior week, the release said. Minnesotans, especially since the start, have reported longer wait times for test results and rapid COVID tests being hard to find.

The state said it will continue to expand COVID-19 testing as it assesses current and projected testing needs. 

“With students back in school and activities moving inside as fall continues its arrival, testing is still vital to protecting our families from COVID-19,” Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said in a statement. “By expanding our robust, collaborative testing program, we have removed testing obstacles for families across the state.

"In addition to getting vaccinated, social distancing, masking, and staying home when sick, we know testing can help us slow the spread of the COVID-19 and limit its negative impacts in our communities," Malcolm added. 

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Adding an extra testing day to four community testing sites is the state's latest move to expand free COVID-19 testing in the state in an effort to better meet the demand for testing as the highly contagious delta variety drives up case numbers. 

Previously, the state in August and September opened four new community testing sites (Bloomington, Lino Lakes, Minneapolis and St. Paul). And last week, the state said it was adding a weekend testing day and doubling capacity at the Duluth community testing site, bringing the site's testing capacity to about 1,000 tests per day.

You can find find the locations and hours of all the state's community testing sites here. Walk-ins are welcome but you can also make an appointment here

Results are processed at the state's saliva lab in Oakdale, with results provided via email about 24 to 48 hours after the lab receives the testing sample.

Testing is free at the community testing sites; health insurance isn't required. 

Minnesotans are also encouraged to get the free COVID-19 vaccine if they haven't yet gotten one. You can find a vaccine provider here and here

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