MDH COVID-19 briefing: State to launch ‘no barriers’ coronavirus testing initiative

During the state’s COVID-19 briefing on Thursday, officials with the Minnesota Department of Health introduced a "no barriers" COVID-19 testing initiative.

MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm said over the next four weeks, the department will be holding three to six testing events per week.

The testing will be open to anyone, regardless of symptoms or whether someone has been in contact with a COVID-19 case.

According to Malcolm, no insurance is needed for the testing events, just a name and contact information. The first round of testing events will be in Waseca, Grand Rapids and Pine City.

According to MDH Assistant Commissioner Dan Huff, the testing initiative is in response to a number of factors, including increased community spread, an increase in group activities and trends that are being seen in neighboring states.

Huff said the events will occur where it is needed most, which includes areas where outbreaks have occurred in workplace clusters, areas near bordering states and locations where testing may not be readily available.

"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," Huff said. "Helping someone find out they are positive early helps them protect others. Positive cases staying hidden causes more spread and more detrimental impact to our schools, our economy and our people."

Along with the "no barriers" testing initiative, Huff said the department is looking to have semi-permanent saliva testing sites set up by mid-October.

"That will also increase access to testing," Huff said.

During the briefing, MDH Medical Director Dr. Ruth Lynfield also spoke about a morbidity and mortality report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that highlighted testing and prevention efforts in the state.

Lynfield said the report showed how testing was done at congregate care facilities that reported outbreaks early in the pandemic. The test showed that in one case, the virus spread was happening inside of the facility, rather than exposures from outside the facility.

Lynfield said the morbidity and mortality report called for a number of items be put in place at skilled nursing facilities, including enhanced infection prevention, ensured availability of personal protective equipment, reduced barriers in testing and flexible medical leave.

You can listen to Thursday’s full briefing by clicking the player below.