Statewide testing push seeks to stem COVID-19 transmission

A young woman sits while being tested for COVID-19.
Emma Vogel has a sample taken for a COVID-19 test on Sept. 2 at a mass testing clinic at Minnesota State University, Mankato's Myers Field House in Mankato, Minn.
Pat Christman | Mankato Free Press file

Over the next month, COVID-19 testing sites will pop up across Minnesota in a massive push by the state to curb community spread of the coronavirus.

“The troublesome trends in our neighboring states are a reminder of how quickly we could go from walking the cliff’s edge to tumbling over it,” said Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm. “We are deeply concerned about the spike of cases in communities all over the state where people don’t know how they contracted the virus.”

Roughly half of all confirmed cases so far have come from community transmission, which suggests to state officials that the virus is widespread and poised to spiral out of control.

The pop-up testing clinics will start the week of Sept. 21, and will be followed by four to six testing events weekly throughout the state. State officials say they expect to do around 10,000 tests in the coming weeks.

Grow the Future of Public Media

MPR News is supported by Members. Gifts from individuals power everything you find here. Make a gift of any amount today to become a Member!

Testing sites will be in communities with workplace clusters, close to border states or where large-scale testing isn’t available.

They’re also aimed at people who fear they have been exposed to coronavirus but are asymptomatic. While the state wants health care providers to test anyone who wants a test, it hasn’t been a consistent practice among all providers.

Testing is free and available to people who don’t have insurance. It will be done with a nasal swab and processed either by Mayo Clinic Laboratories or the University of Minnesota.

The state will work with local public health officials and the National Guard to operate these testing sites. Here’s what you need to know about how you can test a test:

1) Where will the first testing sites be?

The state is still determining the sites, but the first three will be held in Grand Rapids, Pine City and Waseca. 

Sept. 23

  • 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

  • Drive-through testing site at Itasca County Fairgrounds

  • 1336 Fairgrounds Road, Grand Rapids, Minn.

  • Register here.

Sept. 23-24

  • 12-6 p.m.

  • Walk-up testing site at Pine City Armory

  • 1305 Main Street, Pine City, Minn.

  • Register here.

Sept. 23-24

  • 12 -6 p.m.

  • Walk-up testing site at Waseca High School Gym

  • 1717 Second Street NW, Waseca, Minn.

  • Register here.

2) How can I get a test?

Anyone can get a test. Clinics are a combination of walk-up and drive-through. State officials are encouraging people to register ahead of time.  

3) Do I need to have symptoms consistent with COVID-19 to get a test?

No. Anyone who wants a test can get tested. You do not need to be experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 to get a test. 

4) Will it cost me anything?

These tests are free and insurance is not required.