New Minnesota COVID-19 testing sites start opening Friday

woman wears mask and takes covid test
Minnesota Rep. Sydney Jordan (60A) takes a COVID-19 test at the testing site at the Minneapolis Convention Center on Nov. 9, 2020.
Kathryn Styer Martinez | MPR News 2020

Minnesota's newest COVID-19 community testing site will open at the National Guard Armory in Anoka on Friday, Gov. Tim Walz announced Thursday, while the Guard will help raise the capacity of a similar site in downtown St. Paul by 50 percent.

The moves to boost the state's testing capacity amid the spike in omicron variant cases are building on the governor's announcement on Tuesday that the Guard and Minnesota Department of Health would stand up three new community testing sites to address the surging demand for testing.

A man talks to a group of guard members.
Gov. Tim Walz talks to Minnesota National Guard members at their armory in Anoka, Minn., where COVID-19 testing begins Friday.
Mark Zdechlik | MPR News

“It's going to be a challenging three weeks or so, but we've got Minnesota's best on duty here,” Walz said during a visit to the Anoka facility. “We've got our public health officials across the state. We've got our private-sector partners going.”

The governor also said Minnesotans are doing a good job of getting booster vaccinations.

"Minnesota is best in the nation with boosters aged 65 and above and we're second in the nation for all boosters 18 and above,” Walz said.

The Anoka Armory site opens at 11 a.m. Friday. A site at the armory in Cottage Grove will open next Thursday. The existing testing center at the Roy Wilkins Auditorium in St. Paul gained 50 percent more capacity as of Thursday — from 2,000 tests a day to 3,000 — thanks to support from the Guard.

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"We're making sure that we have seven-day-a-week service in many places especially over what looks like to be the spike that will happen over the next two to three weeks,” the governor said. “Again, we can't speak with absolute certainty but most of the modeling seems to show that."

While the sites accept walk-ins, Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm encouraged people to make appointments online. State public health leaders are also asking people to wear masks at testing sites and try to keep distance as much as possible from others.

The Health Department will open a new testing site in North Branch on Monday, officials announced earlier.

Guard troops are currently staffing six sites around the state.