Hundreds of millions of free high-quality N95 masks and COVID-19 tests are being distributed by the federal government. Whether it is enough to counter the omicron virus variant remains to be seen.
Variants have continued to sweep the world and frustrate government leaders and health care officials.
Each U.S. household can order four tests from COVIDtests.gov. The Biden administration also plans to give out 400 million N95 masks for free through pharmacies, grocery stores, and community health centers.
More testing sites
A new COVID-19 testing site in St. Paul will provide up to 1,000 tests per day of late January. It will be open at least until Valentine’s Day, February 14.
It is a federal operated site, opening due to the case surge brought on by the omicron variant. It will be located at the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) Building in St. Paul.
The federal community testing site is at 395 John Ireland Blvd. with free parking available in the MnDOT Building Parking Ramp F, main level, 424 Rice St. The building is wheelchair-accessible. Enter the parking ramp from Rice Street. There is also metered parking in front of the building.
The free testing site won’t collect insurance information and will provide nasal-swab PCR testing for all ages daily from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. through February 14. There is limited room for walk-ins and appointments are recommended.
Register directly with the testing provider at doineedacovid19test.com or visit the state’s COVID-19 community testing sites page.
“Testing is one of our key tools against the highly contagious omicron variant,” said Gov. Tim Walz. “All Minnesotans deserve access to free, easy, and convenient testing to ensure our communities stay safe, our children can stay in school or child care, and our essential workers can continue to provide critical services. This new site will make more tests available as we confront the current surge in cases.”
Minnesotans must fill out a preregistration form and create an account with the testing provider. Test results can be expected within 48 to 72 hours. People will get an email from an address ending with “@ineedacovid19test.com” when a test result is ready and will log into their account to access them. Those without email access can call 1‐800‐635‐8611 to get the results.
Vaccine milestones reached
In mid-January, state officials celebrated a milestone. The state’s Community Vaccination Clinic at the Mall of America reached 200,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses administered this week, and nearly 840,000 total doses have been administered statewide through the state’s Community Vaccination Clinics.
“Our state-run Community Vaccination Clinic at the Mall of America is reaching the incredible milestone of getting 200,000 COVID-19 shots in arms thanks to the tireless efforts of so many,” said Walz. “Our community sites have administered 840,000 vaccines across Minnesota, helping us ensure everyone can find a live-saving COVID-19 vaccine in a convenient, accessible way. My deepest gratitude to the workers on the frontlines administering those shots in arms, our Department of Health COVID-19 operations team coordinating every logistic and detail behind the scenes, and the hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans who visited this clinic to protect themselves, their family, and our state.”
In addition to offering free first and second doses of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, the Mall of America site is also offering free Pfizer COVID-19 booster doses to everyone 12 and older. All Minnesotans 12 and older should get a booster when they are due. Researchers believe the Omicron variant is more transmissible than previous variants, but getting boosted significantly increases protection against severe illness and hospitalization from infection.
“As we reach record-breaking new cases counts and test positivity rates in Minnesota from the highly transmissible Omicron variant, the best thing you can do to keep yourself and your family safe is to be up-to-date on your vaccinations,” said Walz. “Booster doses help prevent severe illness and hospitalization even if you are exposed to the virus. To keep yourself safe from COVID-19, walk into the Mall of America vaccination site or visit your local pharmacy and get your booster as soon as you are due.”
The Mall of America site was the fourth state-run clinic to launch in February of last year. The site continually expanded throughout the year and increased its capacity after the authorization of COVID-19 vaccines for children 5 to 11 years old. It can now administer more than 2,300 shots per day.