MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Nearly two years into the pandemic, the recent surge in cases caused by the Omicron variant is making for long lines at COVID-19 testing sites.

Lines stretched across the parking lot this afternoon in Brooklyn Park, for instance. Hospitals are urging anyone planning on getting tested at an ER to think again.

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One woman WCCO spoke with said it took her about 40 minutes to get through, but the free sites in Minnesota remain your best option to get tested.

Where you should not get tested is at a hospital emergency room. Hennepin Healthcare, the largest hospital in the state, is seeing dozens of people coming into the ER with cold symptoms, looking for a COVID test.

They want to encourage those with mild symptoms not to do this because they are too overwhelmed with more serious, life threatening COVID cases right now.

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“ERs are overwhelmed. So if you come to an ER to get tested, two things are going to happen that you don’t want. One, you’re going to be around a lot of people who have COVID. So if you don’t have covid, you might get it there. We do the best we can with masks, but if you want to find the place with the most amount of COVID cases, the emergency room is the best spot,” HCMC’s Dr. James Miner said. “Second, it’s going to take a really really long time.”

All statewide testing sites are closed New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

Some sites, like the one at Roy Wilkins Auditorium in St. Paul, are not reopening again until Monday, Jan. 3.

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Marielle Mohs