Minnesota's first COVID-19 saliva testing site opening in Duluth

Minnesota will be opening its first saliva testing site this week in Duluth, health officials announced Monday as the state continues fighting the spread of COVID-19.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, the state will open a pilot saliva testing site Wednesday at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center. The site will be the first of its kind in Minnesota, offering free saliva tests to any Minnesotan who believes they need to be tested.

"The high number of new cases we’ve seen in recent days shows the outbreak could quickly spread out of control, so it’s important to stay a step or two ahead," Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said in a release. "Innovative partnerships are one of the ways we do that. This next milestone allows us to expand and diversify our testing options available to Minnesotans. 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.”

Dan Huff, MDH assistant commissioner for health protection said the Duluth location was an ideal place for the site because "regional centers are great places many people from more rural areas regularly access. As a population center and home to more than 20,000 college students, opening this site in Duluth will increase access to testing among people who need it.”

The Duluth site will be open five days a week, Wednesday-Friday from noon to 7 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 pm.

While walk-ins are offered, people are encouraged to register in advance to make an appointment. Testing is free to all Minnesotans who believe they need a COVID-19 test, including those who do not have symptoms.

Though visitors will be asked about their insurance, this is so the state can bill the insurance company. If a person does not have insurance or insurance does not cover some or all of the cost, the state will cover the difference so testing remains completely free to everyone. 

Results are typically provided by email within 24-48 hours of arriving at the lab for processing.

Minnesota plans to open as many as nine more sites across the state.

The site will be operated by Vault Health, which is operating several similar sites across the country. Once the lab opens in Oakdale in mid-October, saliva tests will be processed in Minnesota. When running at full capacity, the new lab will be capable of processing as many as 30,000 samples a day.