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Mower part of statewide pilot COVID-19 testing program

The Mower County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday learned more about a pilot program that has brought saliva testing to the county.

Health and Human Services Director Crystal Peterson informed the board during its Tuesday meeting of the state-wide program that will bring testing right to the homes of people.

“You put it in the mail and can get results in 24-48 hours,” Peterson told the board.

Over 20 counties were chosen throughout the state for the program that started last week. The only other southeast Minnesota county to be chosen was Steele County.

The state made its decision about which counties to include by looking for more diverse populations.

“There are 23 counties in the state that have been chosen to see if you have active COVID,” Peterson said. “It’s just as accurate as nasal swabs.”

The plan is to ultimately make it available to all counties throughout the state.

“Minnesota’s testing strategy includes having multiple options for people seeking out testing,” said Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm in a press release last week. “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 can be ordered online at https://testathome.web.health.state.mn.us/. Tests can be performed by spitting into a small tube under the supervision of a health care professional who will be observing through a telehealth visit.

The sample is then sent to the state’s saliva lab in Oakdale.

“The saliva testing program has made our testing strategy more resilient by offering a convenient method that further reduces the risk of exposure to COVID-19,” said Dan Huff, MDH assistant commissioner for health protection.

The test is free, including for those who are asymptomatic.

Sacred Heart

An outbreak that left over 60 residents and staff infected with COVID-19 earlier this month is in a much better spot, according to Peterson.

The outbreak was so devastating to both residents and staff that the Minnesota National Guard sent five medical staff — one registered nurse and four medical technicians. Hibbing, Minnesota, had the same issue.

But things are looking a lot more optimistic now.

“Last Saturday was the last day of the National Guard,” Peterson said. “They were here for two full weeks, working 12-hour shifts.”

Staff that were affected by the coronavirus were largely back to work, Peterson reported.

“They feel pretty confident that they are in a place they can safely manage,” she said.

Currently, there are 45 cases still active in Mower County with 1,535 cumulative cases and 17 deaths.

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