Minn. Gov. Tim Walz announces saliva testing sites amid rise in COVID-19 cases

    Minnesota governor Tim Walz speaks in the State Capitol building in St. Paul Thursday, September 17, 2020. Photo by Nicole Neri/Minnesota Reformer

    Gov. Tim Walz on Tuesday announced an expanded COVID-19 testing plan, opening new saliva testing sites and a pilot mail order program to help health officials track the spread of the virus. 

    The new sites will offer free saliva tests to any Minnesotan who believes they need to be tested, according to a news release from the governor’s office. 

    “Widespread testing is critical to our state’s strategy to combat COVID-19,” Walz said in a statement. “By increasing access to testing across Minnesota, these saliva testing sites will allow us to better track, understand, and fight the virus in our communities.”

    Saliva testing is a less invasive method to test for the virus. Many tests have involved swabbing a person’s nasal passages, an uncomfortable experience.

    The program comes even as Walz had to send in the National Guard to help contain a deadly outbreak in Sacred Heart Care Center, a 59-bed nursing home in downtown Austin, the Star Tribune reported Tuesday

    Public health officials fear the colder weather will lead to a steep rise in cases as people move indoors, where the virus can be especially contagious. Wisconsin is experiencing a record number of hospitalizations due to COVID-19, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Tuesday

    Saliva testing has been underway in Duluth since Sep. 23, with testing starting in Winona on Wednesday. 

    The state’s Health Department will have locations open in Brooklyn Park and Moorhead, as well opening additional sites in rural Minnesota and the Twin Cities metro, for a total of 10 across the state. 

    Officials also announced a COVID-19 home testing program. Minnesotans will be able to register online and receive their at-home testing kit via UPS. 

    Final details are still being formalized, with a pilot to launch in several counties soon, according to the governor’s office. The tests will be processed in Minnesota at a new lab in Oakdale, opening next week.

    Ricardo Lopez
    Ricardo Lopez is the senior political reporter for the Reformer. Ricardo is not new to Minnesota politics, previously reporting on the Dayton administration and statehouse for The Star Tribune from 2014 to 2017, and the Republican National Convention in 2016. Previously, he was a staff writer at The Los Angeles Times covering the California economy. He's a Las Vegas native who has adopted Minnesota as his home state. In his spare time, he likes to run, cook and volunteer with Save-a-Bull, a Minneapolis dog rescue group.