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Winona, MN (KROC AM News) - A COVID-19 saliva testing site is scheduled to open this week for the first time in southern Minnesota.

The Minnesota Dept. of Health says it will be only the second one offered anywhere in the state. The first was in Duluth a few weeks.ago.

This one will be held in Winona and MDH says it will offer " free saliva tests to any Minnesotan who believes they need to be tested." The one in Duluth has already tested more than 7,000 people.  The state plans to open at least eight more sites in coming weeks.

“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 site will be operated out of the Winona Mall. MDH says it will offer " 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.  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.

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