MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Whether it’s at a clinic or your doorstep, COVID-19 testing is about to take off in Minnesota.

State officials announced Tuesday new saliva-testing centers are opening across the state, and there are plans for an at-home testing program through the mail.

A new lab in Oakdale will process the tests, doubling the state’s capacity to about 60,000 tests a day.

An empty and quiet former office supply store in Brooklyn Park will be the fourth of 10 new testing sites across the state, utilizing the saliva sampling method that Dan Huff, director of environmental health of the Minnesota Department of Health, says is quick, easy, and most importantly, accurate.

“So it is the gold standard laboratory testing. It’s just a different sample-collection technique,” Huff said.

The testing site is located right next to the Metro Transit bus hub in Brooklyn Park, which Mayor Jeffrey Lunde says is key in removing that transportation barrier for people who might now have a vehicle.

“Having that local site allows local churches and nonprofits to be able to kind of reach out, help people, especially elders,” Lunde said.

Similar sites open Wednesday in Winona, then Moorhead later this week. Duluth has been operating a saliva-testing site since last month, already conducting 8000 tests in a three-week span, according to Mayor Emily Larson.

“To us here in Duluth, it’s been really important just to have access to more information,” Larson said.

The test results come back in two days or less, which Mayor Larson says is important for contact tracing. It helps them stop the spread sooner, while also being more targeted in their response.

Recent results showed college-aged students were spreading the virus at off-campus parties and gatherings.

“In this case we’re able to say, ‘OK, we need to go in, we need to work with our universities, we need to educate our students, we need to talk about off-campus behavior,’” Larson said. “But we don’t have to go in and start re-educating bars and restaurants, who are doing everything right.”

A pilot program for at-home saliva testing is also set to begin — one already being utilized by staff in schools.

The samples from the testing sites and at-home kits will be sent to the new lab in Oakdale when it opens next week. That should cut down on the processing time since they’re currently being shipped to a lab on the East Coast.

Click here for more information on where the saliva tests are being offered.

Jeff Wagner

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