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Minnesota's 5th saliva testing site opening in Mankato on Friday

The state's free saliva testing program is part of its strategy to help control COVID-19.

The state of Minnesota is opening another free COVID-19 saliva testing location this week. 

The new site, which will be in Mankato and will open on Friday, is the state's fifth saliva testing site that will offer free tests to anyone who believes they need one – regardless of insurance or if they have symptoms, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) announced Wednesday.

“Mankato is a regional hub, offering access to thousands of people who live and work in the area, as well as thousands of college students who live there,” Dan Huff, MDH assistant commissioner for health protection, said. “We know this site will increase access to testing among people who need it.”

The testing location, at the former Gander Mountain, 1940 Adams St. in Mankato, will be open Friday through Tuesday, from noon-7 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on weekends. You can schedule an appointment here

“Testing is a key component of our strategy to protect Minnesotans from COVID-19,” Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm said. “The continued increase in cases across greater Minnesota, tied to small, everyday gatherings, is very concerning."

Minnesota is among the states seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths in recent weeks. On Wednesday, MDH reported more than 1,000 new confirmed cases of the virus and 35 additional deaths, which ties Minnesota's record set May 28 for the most deaths in a single 24-hour reporting period. In total, 2,281 people have died and 126,591 positive cases have been reported in Minnesota.

"Minnesota has made great progress in removing obstacles to testing for all Minnesotans through a robust, collaborative statewide testing program," Malcolm added. "When combined with social distancing, masking, avoiding crowds and staying home when sick, testing helps us slow the spread of COVID-19 and bridge to the better days we know are coming.”

The Mankato site is the fifth to be announced. The four semi-permanent locations that are already open are in Duluth, Winona, Brooklyn Park and Moorhead. 

The state plans to open "as many as five more across the state in coming weeks," MDH said Wednesday. Locations for the other sites haven't been announced, but officials previously said four would be in the Twin Cities.

How the test works

Saliva testing is free to all Minnesotans, including people who don't have symptoms. Those who go to get tested will be asked for their health insurance information so the state can bill them on your behalf, but if you don't have insurance or if your insurance doesn't' cover it, the state will cover it, keeping testing free.

When you get to your testing appointment, you will self-administer the test by spitting into a funnel attached to a small tube. Staff on-site will monitor the collection process to make sure there's enough saliva to be tested. 

MDH says you shouldn't eat, drink, chew or smoke anything for at least 30 minutes prior to taking the test.

Saliva tests have the same effectiveness as the traditional nasal swab COVID-19 test, but they're more comfortable to take, MDH notes.

The tests will be processed at the state's new saliva lab in Oakdale, with results emailed within 24-48 hours, MDH says. The new lab opened this week, and it will have the capability to process up to 30,000 samples a day when at full capacity.

"Our strategy to managing the virus continues to be proactive, data-driven, and aggressive,” Huff said. “A higher testing capacity, combined with masking, social distancing, and isolation when appropriate, is critical to that strategy. Our work to bring saliva testing to Minnesotans is an important supplement to the COVID-19 testing options already offered across the state. Growing and diversifying our testing options is a tool to keeping Minnesotans safe.”

Walz touted the state's saliva testing program during an interview he did with CNN on Tuesday as one of the things people can do to help control the virus, adding that this type of testing strategy is needed on the national level.

More information on the state's COVID-19 community saliva testing program, as well as how to make an appointment at the other locations, is available here. MDH also has resources to find other testing locations here

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