News release: State’s second COVID-19 saliva testing site to open Wednesday in Winona

News Release
October 9, 2020

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State’s second COVID-19 saliva testing site to open Wednesday in Winona

Site will offer free saliva testing to anyone who needs it

The State of Minnesota today announced it will open a saliva testing site on Wednesday at the Winona Mall. This testing site will be the first in southern Minnesota and the second in the state, offering free saliva tests to any Minnesotan who believes they need to be tested.

“We can’t let down our guard in our battle against COVID-19,” said Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm. “One of biggest areas of concern right now is the growing community spread and increase in cases throughout Greater Minnesota. As the weather moves gatherings indoors, the risk of transmission increases. Saliva testing offers Minnesotans another option for seeking out testing when they need it. Increased access to testing and identifying positive cases as early as possible is a critical way to slow the spread of COVID-19, and to keep schools and the economy as open as possible.”

The state opened the first saliva testing site in Duluth on Sept. 23. Since opening, more than 7,000 people have been tested. State officials plan to open as many as eight more sites across the state in coming weeks.

“The Winona Mall can serve as a regional hub for Minnesotans in the southeast corner of our state,” said Dan Huff, MDH assistant commissioner for health protection. “This site offers access to those who live and work in Winona County, as well as the thousands of college students who live here. We know this site will increase access to testing among people who need it.”

The Winona Mall site will be open five days a week. Wednesday through Friday, noon to 6 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The testing is in the back of the Winona Mall, 1213 Gilmore Avenue, near the Department of Motor Vehicles (southwest corner), facing Highway 61. The entrance is on the outside of the mall. While it is open to walk-ins, people are encouraged to make an appointment if they are able, to prevent crowding and long lines. Appointments can be made through the COVID-19 Community Saliva Testing webpage.

Testing is free to all Minnesotans who believe they need a COVID-19 test, including those who do not have symptoms. While they will be asked about their insurance, this is so the state can bill the insurance company. If a person is uninsured or for any reason 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 via email within 48-72 hours.

"We're pleased the state has chosen Winona for one of its first regional testing sites," said Winona Mayor Mark Peterson. "This site will give residents the ability to take an easy test and get quick results, whether they or their family have symptoms, or they believe they were exposed to someone who is sick. Testing is one way we keep our family and friends safe."

"Winona County is grateful for the opportunity to help bring saliva-based testing to our community,” said Ben Klinger, Winona County Emergency Management director. “This increased access to testing will help us identify positive cases as early as possible and begin mitigation strategies to protect our community from COVID-19.”

Those who come 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 spitting into a funnel attached to a small tube. Clinic staff will be available on-site to monitor the collection process and ensure there is enough saliva to be tested.

“Our saliva test is one of the most reliable COVID-19 tests available with a 99% effective rate,” said Jason Feldman, co-founder and CEO of Vault Health. “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.”

Vault Health will operate the testing sites, as the team has experience running sites like this across the country. Vault is hiring local staff to work at the testing sites and lead daily operations. For now, the tests will be shipped to Vault Health’s New Jersey lab; however, Minnesota’s partnership includes the creation of a saliva testing lab in Minnesota. Once the lab opens in Oakdale the week of Oct. 19, 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.

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

For more information about the saliva testing site in Winona, please visit COVID-19 Community Saliva Testing.

-MDH-


Media inquiries:

Nick Kimball
State of Minnesota COVID-19 Communications
651-600-0920
Nicholas.Kimball@state.mn.us