By WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — After seeing levels of community spread rise, Minnesota health officials are pushing to bring free COVID-19 testing to more communities over the next four weeks.

Starting next week, there’ll be “no barrier” testing at the first group of cities: Grand Rapids, Pine City and Waseca. The testing will be free and available to anyone who feels they need to be tested, regardless of symptoms, the Minnesota Health Department says. No insurance or IDs are required.

Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm says officials are concerned about spikes in cases where people don’t know how they contracted the virus.

“Community spread driven by people who don’t know they have it puts those most vulnerable to the worst complications at grave risk,” Malcolm said, in a statement. “It’s more critical than ever to test a lot of people and identify positive cases early to slow that spread. Testing lets us know who needs to isolate and who else may be at risk.”

According to the commissioner, what’s happening in Minnesota’s neighboring states should serve as a reminder of how quickly communities can go from walking a cliff’s edge to tumbling over it.

The next batch of cities to have “no barrier” testing have yet to be announced. However, health officials say they’ll use the data gathered in these communities to identify areas where there are workplace clusters or to see if people from out-of-state are transferring the virus. The testing will also be targeted to areas that haven’t yet had wide-spread testing.

The testing will be done with a nasal swab and be processed by either the Mayo Clinic lab or the University of Minnesota lab. The Minnesota National Guard will provide help with staffing and logistical support, as was done with earlier free testing sites in the Twin Cities.

Since the coronavirus outbreak began in March, more than 86,000 Minnesotans have tested positive for the virus and nearly 2,000 have died. The number of people tested for COVID-19 so far in the state is approximately 1.2 million.

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