MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — One year ago, the state reported about 25,000 cases in September. Last month, more than 65,000 people were sick.

On Wednesday, Gov. Tim Walz and President Joe Biden both pushed testing as a tool for slowing to spread of COVID-19. The White House said it will spend a $1 billion to get four times as many rapid at-home tests in stores.

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Gov. Walz is calling for vaccine and testing requirements for teachers.

If you aren’t vaccinated, Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) recommends testing regularly, and says unvaccinated students and people working in schools should test weekly.

But outside of known exposures and symptoms, there are other reasons fully-vaccinated people may want to get tested, says Dan Huff, MDH’s assistant commissioner for health protection.

“If you’ve been in say a large gathering, went to a party, you went to a fair, a concert, you should get tested usually about three days after an event,” Huff said.

The state still has free testing sites and at-home testing options as well. Many pharmacies have free, federally-funded tests. Just call and ask ahead of time.

(credit: CBS)

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You also may be able to find over-the-counter self-test kits at your local pharmacy they cost about $40 for two. There’s no appointments or wait times, though some places are having a hard time restocking the tests.

“It’s just because they had a slowdown in production and they are trying to catch up,” Huff said. “The governor has been talking to the White House about how can we increase production and have more available for Minnesotans.”

MDH warns to read the instructions and do the tests properly.

While vaccinations are still the first line of defense, experts say it doesn’t hurt to double down.

“The vaccine is like a great umbrella, but it is raining COVID outside and you might still get wet, and so that’s why we’re saying test as well,” Huff said.

Four of the state’s free community testing sites will soon expand their hours. Starting next weekend, Mankato and St. Cloud locations will be open on Fridays. Moorhead and Winona will be open on Sundays.

Tests at all of the state’s 13 locations are free. You’re asked to set up an appointment first. Click here for more information.

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And click here to read the latest testing guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Erin Hassanzadeh