More options for COVID-19 testing

Lyon County residents can now get free in-home test kits through MDH pilot program

Photo courtesy of Minnesota Department of Health Lyon County residents now have the option of getting tested for COVID-19 at home. A pilot program from the Minnesota Department of Health will mail free saliva test kits to people who want to get tested, even if they are asymptomatic. The MDH rolled out the program last week for 24 counties including Lyon, Rock and Nobles counties.

MARSHALL — Some area residents now have another option when it comes to getting tested for COVID-19 — without leaving home.

Lyon County is one of two dozen counties around the state that are part of a pilot program offering free in-home testing. County residents who believe they need to be tested for COVID-19 can request a mail-order saliva testing kit.

The Minnesota Department of Health said the pilot program will make it possible for more people to get tested, and help slow the spread of COVID-19. At-home testing will be available for all Minnesotans soon, the MDH said in a press release.

“Minnesota’s testing strategy includes having multiple options for people seeking out testing,” MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm said. “Having more options helps to remove barriers, ensuring all Minnesotans have access to quick and reliable testing.”

“It really is about access,” and having another tool in a comprehensive response to COVID-19, said Carol Biren, public health director for Southwest Health and Human Services. “We are seeing a lot of tests being done in a lot of different ways.” Being able to identify people with COVID-19 sooner and have them self-isolate helps reduce the spread of the virus, she said.

The MDH unveiled the Test At Home program last week. A total of 24 counties, spread out around Minnesota, would be able to offer in-home saliva tests to residents. The list includes a few counties in southwest Minnesota, including Lyon, Rock, Nobles and Kandiyohi counties. The MDH said the counties picked for the pilot program are from geographically diverse areas, and places that either didn’t have saliva testing or haven’t had much access to community testing events.

The saliva testing program is different from past community testing events in the area. People who believe they need to be tested for COVID-19 can order testing kits online. The kits will be shipped to their homes.

Instead of gathering test samples through nasal swabs, the at-home test kits collect saliva. People perform the test by spitting into a small tube, under the supervision of a health care professional through a video telehealth visit, the MDH said. The test then gets shipped to Minnesota’s new saliva lab in Oakdale. Results are emailed back in 24 to 48 hours, the MDH said.

“This is a welcome addition to our comprehensive approach to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” Biren said. SWHHS serves both Lyon and Rock County. “We know this continues to be difficult, and many are eager for better days ahead. But we must remain diligent in this by social distancing, washing your hands, avoiding large gatherings, masking, staying home when you’re sick, and getting tested if you’ve been in close contact with someone who’s tested positive or have symptoms yourself.”

Biren said COVID-19 cases have been on the rise in southwest Minnesota. This part of the state is close to South Dakota, where cases have also been rising, she said.

The saliva testing program is free to all Minnesotans. Participants will be asked for their health insurance information, so the state can bill the insurance company on participants’ behalf. If a person is uninsured or not covered for the cost of the test, the state will cover the difference, the MDH said.

More information on the at-home COVID-19 test, and a test order form, is available online at www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/testsites/athome.html.


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