Walz sounds COVID-19 alarm, launches massive testing initiative

Despite huge increases in testing, Minnesota's percent positive rate keeps rising.
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Governor Tim Walz

Minnesota's battle against COVID-19 is focused on a massive increase in testing that will see the opening of more than a dozen new testing locations throughout the state in the next two weeks. 

"We have reached a very dangerous phase in the pandemic, in the Upper Midwest and now into Minnesota," said Gov. Tim Walz, speaking from the newest saliva testing site at the Minneapolis Convention Center. "The infection rates and the number of cases and hospitalizations and deaths not only set records one day, they did it each and every day last week." 

"This is exponential growth. We are now seeing the rate of growth that we predicted and feared," said Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm. "We have been sounding this alarm for weeks and we will continue to do so." 

As MPR's David Montgomery noted Sunday, Minnesota had around 180,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the first eight months of the pandemic and the next 180,000 could happen within a month at the current rate of growth, which saw nearly 6,000 new cases reported Sunday. 

"It's not a myth and it's real. It's killing our neighbors. It has accelerated exactly as we said last month," said Walz, adding: "It's not meant to scare. It's not meant to make things up. It is a mathematical certainty almost. If we don't make some of these changes quickly, we will be reporting 10,000 cases and dozens of deaths and hospitals that are now starting to become full."

The testing expansion will see 11 sites operated by the Minnesota National Guard that will stay open through the end of the year. All 11 will open Monday, Nov. 16. Ten of the 11 will be located at armories, with specific locations being announced later this week. 

Another saliva testing site will also be opening this Thursday, Nov. 12, at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. People will be advised to go to Terminal 1, with testing located on Level 2 of the Blue Ramp. It will be open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. 

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It'll be the 9th of 10 saliva testing locations to have opened in Minnesota. The tenth is expected to be in the Twin Cities and announced in the next week or two. All tests will be free of cost and free of all barriers. Insurance is not necessary, and it doesn't matter if you have symptoms. 

“So many people are spreading the virus before they know they have it. That’s why we’ve seen great demand for testing across the state, and today’s announcement brings us closer to getting the virus under control," said Walz. 

Walz implored people ages 18-35 to be extra cautious because they are often asymptomatic and unknowingly spreading the virus. Walz called that age demographic the "heart and soul of where this is spreading." 

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