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State to open new COVID-19 testing site in Albert Lea next week

To expand access to free, no barrier COVID-19 testing, the Minnesota Department of Health on Thursday announced 11 new longer-term COVID-19 testing sites will open across Minnesota in the coming weeks.

Ten of the testing sites will be at National Guard armories in Albert Lea, Anoka, Crookston, Fairmont, Hibbing, Hutchinson, Inver Grove Heights, Morris, Stillwater and Wadena. The 11th will be in the west metro, according to a press release.

The site at Albert Lea National Guard Armory opens Nov. 18. Freeborn County Public Health Director Sue Yost said the Albert Lea location will offer the nasal swab exclusively. This type of testing swabs inside of the nostril area and is different from nasopharyngeal testing.

In addition to the 11 new testing sites, the COVID-19 Test at Home program is now available to all Minnesotans across the state. This is an expansion from the pilot, which was previously made available in 23 counties and the Red Lake Nation.

“Minnesota is entering the most difficult phase of the pandemic yet,” said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm. “We have record levels of new cases, high hospitalization numbers and increased community spread. At the same time, we know promising vaccines are entering new stages of development.”

“Right now, our job is to build a bridge to that day when safe and effective vaccines are widely available. We do that by working together to limit the impacts of COVID-19 on our families and communities through the simple steps we know make a difference. That includes social distancing, masking, avoiding crowds, staying home when sick and getting tested when appropriate. This latest expansion of testing makes that last part easier by providing Minnesotans with an unprecedented level of access to COVID-19 tests, putting nearly every Minnesotan just three days from a test result.”

All of the new testing sites, as well as the mail order program, offer COVID-19 testing to any Minnesotan who wants to be tested, whether they have symptoms or not, and does not require insurance. Some sites will offer nasal swab testing, others will offer saliva testing. They will stay in operation until at least the end of the year to provide sustained testing capacity across the state.

The sites at National Guard armories will be staffed by a combination of local public health staff and members of the Minnesota National Guard. Nearly 100 members of the National Guard are being deployed to provide support with logistics, registration, check in and check out, supply management and transportation. These sites will replace the pop-up style of community testing events, which for the past several months would arrive in a community for two to three days of testing.

“Our mobile community testing events allowed us to test thousands of Minnesotans, in all corners of the state,” said Dan Huff, assistant commissioner for health protection. “We came to communities experiencing spikes in cases or hotspots. But now, every community is seeing spikes in cases. By placing these testing sites in armories for the time being, we’re able to spend more time providing tests, instead of setting up new testing sites every week. This expansion allows us to be more efficient and provide more access to more people.”

The state will also open a new saliva testing site in Burnsville, at the former Pier 1 store, on Monday. It is the 10th saliva site operated by Vault Medical Services, which has also partnered with the state to offer the COVID-19 test at home program statewide.

“Our mail order at-home test program is another way we are helping Minnesotans stay safe, which also includes the 10 on-site testing facilities across the state, and the Oakdale COVID-19 lab,” said Vault Health Founder and CEO Jason Feldman. “Now, residents can access our tests from the safety of their own home under the digital supervision of a practitioner with results in the same amount of time.”

Through the COVID-19 Test at Home program, any person in Minnesota can order a saliva test to be delivered at their home with expedited shipping. The test is then sent to the new lab in Oakdale for processing.

Find more information about the COVID-19 Test at Home program and find the link to order a test at COVID-19 Test at Home.