Minnesota's first COVID-19 saliva testing site will open in Duluth on Wednesday.
Saliva testing at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center will be free and open to anyone who wants a test, the Minnesota Department of Health announced Monday.
State health officials said it's the first of up to nine saliva testing sites planned across the state and will help make COVID-19 testing more accessible.
"This next milestone allows us to expand and diversify our testing options available to Minnesotans," Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said in a news release Monday. "Increased access to testing and identifying positive cases as early as possible is a critical way to keep schools and the economy as open as possible. While testing alone will not suppress the virus, higher testing volumes are a central part of our strategy to manage the virus.”
The Duluth site will be open five days a week, Wednesday through Friday from noon to 7 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Testing will also be free for all Minnesotans and anyone can be tested, whether or not they have symptoms, health officials said.
"While they will be asked about their insurance, this is so the state can bill the insurance company," the Minnesota Department of Health said in its release. If a person does not have insurance or insurance doesn’t cover some or all of the cost, the state will cover the difference so testing remains free to everyone.
While it is open to walk-ins, officials encourage people to register in advance to make an appointment if possible to prevent crowding and long lines. Appointments can be made through the registration website, mncovidtestingappt.as.me/schedule.php.
Thirty minutes of free parking in the lot outside the testing site is available to anyone who drives to the testing site.
The DECC said testing will take place in Paulucci Hall's Entrance F and is accessible from Harbor Drive.
People wanting a test should refrain from eating, drinking or smoking anything at least 30 minutes prior to providing a sample. The test will then be self-administered at the site by spitting into a funnel attached to a small tube. Staff will be there to make sure the process is followed and a correct sample is taken.
Results are expected to take one to two days.
“Our saliva test is one of the most reliable COVID tests available with a 99% effective rate,” said Jason Feldman, co-Founder and CEO of Vault Health, the company operating the Duluth site. “It’s comfortable to take and can be done without in-person interactions, meaning no risk of virus transmission and no need for PPE to conduct the test."
Vault Health has run similar sites elsewhere in the U.S. and will hire local staff to run the Duluth site.
In Monday's COVID-19 media briefing, MDH Assistant Commissioner Dan Huff said the site could hire up to 250 new jobs.
Minnesota officials expect to open a saliva testing lab in Oakdale in mid-October that could process 30,000 samples per day once it is running at full capacity.
In meantime, the tests will be sent to Vault Health's New Jersey lab.
“Paulucci Hall is the ideal location for the testing site within the DECC footprint," DECC interim Executive Director Roger Reinert said in the release. "It allows for easy entry and exit, as well a safe and contained space within the facility."