By Esme Murphy

ANOKA, Minn. (WCCO) — Tim Walz visited one of three new metro area COVID-19 testing sites Thursday, thanking the troops who will be doing the testing at the Armory in downtown Anoka.

Once again, the Minnesota National Guard is stepping up to fight COVID-19. They will be conducting the tests starting Friday.

READ MORE: More Than 400 Crashes & Spinouts On Minnesota Roads Amid Saturday's Snow

“The situation has changed. The omicron virus, not just in Minnesota, not just nationally, but globally is picking up relatively quickly,” Walz said.

In the next few days the state is opening new testing sites in Anoka, Cottage Grove and North Branch and increasing the capacity at St Paul’s Roy Wilkins Auditorium by 50%.

“The whole point of this from an individual basis is for you to know if you are positive or negative, so you can isolate and stop the spread of it,” Walz said.

The state is also adopting new CDC guidelines for shorter quarantines. The recommended quarantine now is down from 10 days to five for those who have COVID and are asymptomatic, including children.

READ MORE: 2 Teenagers Accused In Over A Dozen Metro Area Carjackings

“They just told us last night, clarified that the general guidance does apply to K-12,” Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said.

As for the coveted rapid tests, Minnesota has received 1 million tests for schools, and is waiting for another 1.8 million.

But Minnesota is in line with other states and the federal government, which is still promising to mail 500 million tests to homes around the country.

“We are competing against 49 other states. We’re competing with the federal government, and we are competing globally on this,” Walz said.

Some of those coming to the state’s community sites do have symptoms. That is why the health department is asking anyone who comes to these sites to wear a mask and observe social distancing when you are standing in line.

MORE NEWS: Minnesota Weather: Wind Chill Advisory For Northern Minnesota Until Noon Sunday

For a full list of community testing sites around the state, click here.

Esme Murphy