Journal COVID

The first mass COVID-19 testing event to be held in Koochiching County is scheduled for next week at Bob Walls Union Station, on main street of International Falls.

The saliva testing is free and open to anyone who thinks they need a test, whether that be because they have symptoms, or know or think they have been exposed to someone who tested positive.

“Beyond that, with the level of community spread and status of the virus, even if you have taken precautions, just stopping at the post office or grocery store, it is possible you have been exposed and could be tested,” said an MDH spokesperson Tuesday.

There is no cost or harm in being tested.

While those being tested will be asked for insurance information that would help the state recoup some of the costs, it is not required, she said.

Preregistration at

is urged, but not required, to make an appointment. Should preregistration not occur, it will be done on site.

There are a few things you should know about being tested:

  • Each person — adult, child, and elderly — being tested will need an email address, which connects the test to the addressee, and is how the personal results will be reported. If you do not have an email in advance of the test for each person in the household being tested, MDH will have staff on site to assist people.
  • Do NOT eat, drink, smoke or chew anything — even a mint or gum — one hour prior to the test.
  • Results are emailed to you 24-48 hours after taking the test.
  • The saliva test is less invasive than the nasal swab, but some people may have a little difficulty and take a while to gather enough spit to fill a vile to sample. Producing the required amount of saliva usually takes 10-12 minutes.
  • At the testing location, you will receive a kit and use your smartphone to scan a QR code that brings you to a testing website. Once on the site, a health care professional will tell you how to take the test, but you will do it yourself. You will spit into a funnel attached to a tube.
  • There is an at home mail order option, should residents not be able to come to the testing site. Or look on the state’s website to find a clinic or hospital near you.

Vaccination plan

Meanwhile, county Public Health Director Kathy LaFrance provided information to the county board Tuesday about the testing event, as well as the roll out of the state’s vaccination plan.

Minnesota Department of Health is in charge of how and when vaccines are dispersed, she said.

“We have no say in who gets the vaccine or when they get it,” she said.

MDH’s online dashboard provides information about vaccines https://mn.gov/covid19/vaccine/data/index.jsp

The dashboard on Tuesday reported 323 people in the county had been provided with at least one dose of the vaccine, with five or fewer having completed the two-dose series.

“I know people are frustrated,” LaFrance said. “We are getting a lot of calls about when people will get the vaccination.”

The plan is rolling out in Minnesota, with those who are most vulnerable vaccinated first.

LaFrance explained Koochiching County is in Phase 1a, which is for health care workers and long-term care residents. Phase 1b will expand vaccination to adults aged 75 and over and frontline essential workers, and Phase 1c will further open eligibility to include adults aged 65-74, adults aged 16-64 with high-risk medical conditions, and other essential workers.

LaFrance urged that people who feel they should be vaccinated with the people included in Phase 1a, but have not been contacted about the vaccine, to call the Public Health office at 218-283-7070 and speak to Derek Foss, who is coordinating the vaccine clinics.

LaFrance said while Koochiching County’s population is smaller and may be able to be vaccinated quickly, the progression of the roll out is being followed.

Koochiching County has received 100 doses of the vaccine and is expected to receive another 100 this week. She said that should provide enough vaccine to provide the second doses to those who have already had their first dose.