COVID testing is free, fast and encouraged for frontline workers

Andrew Virden leads union officers on a tour of the community testing site at Roy Wilkins Auditorium.

COVID-19 testing is fast, safe and open to anyone free of charge at 21 community testing sites across Minnesota.

That’s the message state health officials want union members – and all frontline workers – to hear as more businesses, schools and other gathering places begin reopening to the public.

As a small group of union leaders toured the testing site inside St. Paul’s Roy Wilkins Auditorium today, state officials emphasized that testing remains critical to containing the coronavirus outbreak. And containing the outbreak is critical to keeping Minnesota schools and businesses open.

“Getting tested is what we have to do until – and even after – vaccines start getting into people’s arms,” said Andrew Virden, a state incident commander assigned to local testing sites. “We’re going to need to continue to monitor the outbreak.”

Getting tested at Roy Wilkins, Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport or any of the other community testing sites typically takes 10 minutes or less. The process requires nothing more than an email address and saliva.

“This is free. There’s no barrier,” Virden said. “You don’t need a photo ID. You don’t need insurance.”

People who access community testing sites often get their results within 24 hours, Virden added. The quick turnaround is key to keeping frontline workers and their families safe.

“You do not want to be that vector,” Virden said. “You don’t want to be the person that gets their whole team sick. You don’t want to be the person that gets your customers sick. You don’t want to be the one that gets grandma sick or your family sick.”

Tests are not in short supply, officials emphasize, and getting tested is safe.

The Roy Wilkins is a cavernous space (ask any concertgoer), making it easy to maintain six feet of physical distance. People can schedule appointments in advance to avoid standing in line. And testing stations are sanitized after each use.

Roy Wilkins’ testing site opened in October 2020, as Minnesota began seeing a second wave of COVID-19 cases.

“When we first opened through the end of December we were averaging at least 2,000 people per day,” said Kou Yang, a site manager at Roy Wilkins. “Since January we’ve been at about 700 to 1,000 people per day on weekdays, and on weekends 500 to 700.”

Public health officials warn against a letdown in testing and other tools to contain the virus’ spread as cases level off, noting that a new, more contagious strain of the virus has begun circulating in Minnesota.

“It’s about folks monitoring themselves as to their health condition, especially if you’re a frontline worker, especially if you’re working in the public and especially if you’re exposed,” Virden said.

Click here for more information on the 21 community testing sites Minnesota offers.

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