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

It will offer free tests to all Minnesotans who believe they need to be tested, regardless of symptoms.

DULUTH, Minn. — A pilot site for free COVID-19 saliva testing will open at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center on Wednesday, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. 

It will be the first of its kind in Minnesota, with as many as nine more planned to open across the state. This pilot site will help state and local health officials determine how much demand there is for saliva testing, which has been said to be less invasive than the more common nasal swab test. 

It is part of MDH's efforts to increase testing statewide.

"Our battle against COVID-19 is far from over,” Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said in a press release on Monday. “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. 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.”

The Duluth site will be open Wednesday through Friday from noon to 7 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 pm. It is open to walk-ins, but people are encouraged to make an appointment in advance to avoid crowding and long lines. 

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The tests will be free to all Minnesotans, whether or not they are displaying symptoms of COVID-19. While workers will ask about insurance, the state will cover the difference if insurance does not cover the test or if someone is uninsured. 

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

The site is currently hiring local staff to run its daily operations. It will be operated by Vault Health, which developed the first saliva-based COVID-19 test.

“Our saliva test is one of the most reliable COVID tests available with a 99% effective rate,” co-Founder and CEO of Vault Health Jason Feldman said in the release. “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. Minnesota is truly leading the way in unlocking testing for everyone.”

According to Dan Huff, MDH assistant commissioner for health protection, these saliva testing sites are part of a move to make COVID-19 testing more accessible in Minnesota.

“Our strategy for managing the virus continues to be proactive, data-driven, and aggressive,” Huff said in the release. “A higher testing capacity, combined with masking, social distancing, and staying home in isolation when appropriate, is critical to that strategy. Our work to bring saliva testing to Minnesotans is an important supplement to the COVID-19 testing options already offered across the state. Growing and diversifying our testing options is a tool to keeping Minnesotans safe.”

More information about this site, and future planned saliva testing sites in Minnesota, can be found on MDH's website