Minnesota is seeing a steady rise in the number of positive COVID-19 cases. Part of that rise can be attributed to a big increase in statewide testing. This week, public health officials were in Anoka for a free testing event.
“Hi. Are you pre-registered today,” asked a Minnesota National Guard soldier, who stood outside the Armory in Anoka, handing out fresh face masks to each person entering the building.
The Minnesota National Guard has been mobilized to the frontlines to help Minnesotans battle against COVID-19.
“We have the capacity to test about 120 or so an hour, said Heather Hirsch, who is the site manager for the State Emergency Operations Center.
The Armory is where one of six, such events, are happening this week across the state. The testing events are meant to increase no-barriers COVID-19 testing to the uninsured, and anyone who wants to be tested. No ID required.
“So the nasal swab that we do at these tests is five seconds in each nostril,” said Heather Hirsch, State Emergency Center Manager. “And it’s very quick. There’s no pain, I promise, I’ve had it done several times.”
Test results generally come back within seventy-two hours. If the test is negative, the individual gets an email. If someone tests positive, they get a call from a health professional.
“We are aware that the cases in Anoka County are going up,” said Janelle Hubbard, who is the Anoka County Public Health and Environmental Services Director.
Anoka County Public Health was assigned COVID-19 response activities, by the Minnesota Department of Health.
“And what that structure does is it predetermines roles and responsibilities,” Hubbard said. “So when emergencies occur we can quickly activate and respond to community needs.”
And that means mass testing for the corona virus. Public health officials have seen increased levels of community spread throughout Anoka County. And they are working to ensure mission critical staff are ready, when needed.
“For example, Police, Fire, EMS and 911 staff are making sure that those infrastructures can be maintained so that they can respond to our community needs,” explained Hubbard.
As of this week in Anoka County there have been over 123,000 people tested for COVID-19. And of those tested in the county 6.4% were positive. That’s above the state average of 5.2%.
According to Hirsch, the importance of testing events like this cannot be overstated.
"We know we have a lot of individuals who may not have access to healthcare, many not have access to a clinic," Hirsch said.
And while statewide efforts are aimed at community testing for COVID-19, public health officials still want everyone to get their seasonal flu shot.
“We’re just really encouraging people to take personal responsibility for their health and protecting themselves,” said Hubbard. “When they protect themselves they will be protecting others around them.”
The Minnesota Department of Health has tested nearly 25,000 people all across the state. And next week, they will be testing in four more locations including Cambridge and Monticello. Also, there is a push to open more saliva testing sites in the state, with one opening up in Brooklyn Park on October 20.