Walz announces significant expansion of COVID-19 testing in Minnesota

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, speaking at the Minneapolis Convention Center on Nov 9, 20202, announces 11 future testing COVID-19 testing sites. Photo by Bill Keller / FOX 9. (Bill Keller, FOX 9 / FOX 9)

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced a significant expansion in COVID-19 testing access Monday as cases hit record-high levels across the state. 

There will be more than a dozen new testing sites opening across the state over the next two weeks, all of which will offer free testing to anyone, whether they have symptoms or not. The expansion includes opening 11 sites operated by the Minnesota National Guard, which will remain open through at least the end of the year. The 11 sites will offer a mix of saliva and nasal PCR tests. 

The governor made the announcement at the new COVID-19 saliva testing site at the Minneapolis Convention Center, which opened Monday. The state will also open its ninth saliva testing site on Thursday at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. 

The state plans to open several more saliva testing sites in the metro, as well as make the mail order program available statewide yet this month. Saliva testing sites are already open in Brooklyn Park, Duluth, Mankato, Minneapolis, Moorhead, St. Cloud, St. Paul and Winona. 

All saliva tests are sent to a lab in Oakdale and results are available within 24-48 hours. Nasal swab tests are testing through the University of Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic with results available within 2-3 days. 

State health officials are hoping better access to quick testing will help get the spread of the virus under control.

On Sunday, the Minnesota Department of Health reported an increase of nearly 6,000 COVID-19 cases. That puts the total number of cases in Minnesota at 180,000 since the start of the pandemic.

Health officials also confirmed 31 more deaths, for a total of 2,656.