COVID-19 testing site opening in Carver County as B117 variant spreads

The Minnesota Department of Health announced Monday it is opening a new temporary COVID-19 testing site in Carver County in an effort to combat the spread of the B117 variant.

The testing site, which will be located at the Chanhassen Recreation Center, comes amid a rapidly growing outbreak of B117 variant COVID-19. Testing will occur March 11-13 and March 18-20. Appointments are encouraged but not required.

"The variants circulating now present added risk that we may see another surge in cases and we need everyone to do their part to prevent that from happening," Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm said in a release.

Since late January, at least 84 cases of COVID-19 have been linked to participants in both school-sponsored and club sports activities, including hockey, wrestling, basketball, alpine skiing, and other sports. Health officials have also seen increases in cases in Carver County gyms and fitness centers, with many of the cases linked to the sports-related cases.

MDH observed a concerning increase in the rate of growth of cases in Carver County over the past month (a 62% increase between the week beginning Jan. 27 to the week beginning Feb. 24). Case rates in Carver County are now approaching rates seen in October 2020, and a high proportion (35%) are under age 20.

Through recently completed whole genome sequencing of a portion of the sample specimens from the outbreak cases, health officials confirmed 27 cases of the B117 variant, a highly contagious and potentially more virulent variant first identified in the United Kingdom. Cases have occurred in athletes, coaches, students, and household contacts. Multiple schools, both public and private, have confirmed cases tied to the variant strain cases. Many of the people with B117 variant COVID-19 attended school or sports activities while infectious. The concern is this highly contagious variant has the potential to spread exponentially and quickly across youth who are largely unprotected by vaccines.

Last week, the outbreak prompted state health officials to call for youth athletes and parents to double down on measures to prevent the spread of the virus, including weekly testing of athletes and coaches.

As with all of the state’s community testing sites, testing at the site is offered at no cost. Participants will be asked for their health insurance information so the state can bill their insurance company on their behalf. If a person is uninsured or if insurance doesn’t cover some or all of the cost, the state will cover the difference, so that testing remains open to all at no cost.

Testing is open to anyone who believes they need a COVID-19 test, with or without insurance. State guidance on who should get tested was recently updated and can be found on the Minnesota COVID-19 Response webpage.

Those who arrive for a test should avoid eating, drinking, chewing, or smoking anything for at least 30 minutes before providing a sample. Once they arrive at the site, they will self-administer the test by salivating into a funnel attached to a small tube. Clinic staff will be available on-site to monitor the collection process.
Walk-ins are available. People seeking testing at the Chanhassen site can schedule a test through Vault Health.

Tests will be processed in Minnesota at the saliva lab in Oakdale run by Vault Health and Infinity Biologix (IBX). Results will be provided via email in approximately 48-72 hours.

Chanhassen Recreation Center
2310 Coulter Blvd.
Chanhassen, MN 55317

Hours of operation:
Thursday, March 11, 2 – 8 p.m.
Friday, March 12, noon – 6 p.m.
Saturday, March 13, noon – 6 p.m.
Thursday, March 18, 2 – 8 p.m.
Friday, March 19, noon – 6 p.m.
Saturday, March 20, noon – 6 p.m.

The state also offers at-home COVID-19 saliva testing for everyone who lives in Minnesota, with or without symptoms, at no cost. To learn more and order a test, visit COVID-19 Test at Home.