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St. Paul, MN (KROC-AM News) - The Minnesota Department of Health today launched a pilot program of a COVID-19 Test at Home saliva program.

A news release says residents of two dozen Minnesota counties are now able to order a saliva test online and take the tests in their own homes. Mower and Steele counties are among those where the at-home tests are being offered free of charge to anyone who believes they need to be tested.

“Minnesota’s testing strategy includes having multiple options for people seeking out testing,” said Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm. “Having more options helps to remove barriers, ensuring all Minnesotans have access to quick and reliable testing. The continued increase in COVID-19 cases across Greater Minnesota, tied to small, everyday gatherings, is very concerning. Testing is one way we slow the spread of COVID-19, and the mail order program provides yet another method for Minnesotans to access testing.”

The tests involve spitting into a small tube under the supervision of a healthcare professional through a video telehealth visit. The sample is then shipped to the state's new testing lab in Oakdale for processing with the results emailed to the individual within 24 to 48 hours.

State health officials say, while the testing is free to all, participants will be asked for their health insurance information so the state can bill their insurance company on their behalf. If they do not have insurance, or their insurance does not cover all of the cost, the state will cover the difference.

Assistant State Health Commissioner Dan Huff says the pilot program will be used to gather information and use it to make necessary adjustments before making the program available statewide as soon as possible. The state is currently operating four saliva testing sites, including one in Winona. A fifth site in Mankato is scheduled to open on Friday.

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