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CLC hosts free COVID-19 testing event in gymnasium available through Saturday

Open to anyone who wants to get tested — symptomatic or asymptomatic — at no cost, the site has the capacity for approximately 480 tests per day. Appointments are strongly encouraged, but walk-ins will also be accepted.

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Rick Aulie follows instructions from Crow Wing County public health nurse Amber Battin to place his nasal swab inside a tube for testing Thursday, Dec. 17, in the gymnasium at Central Lakes College. The site will be open for anyone to use through Saturday. Chelsey Perkins / Brainerd Dispatch

In a typical December, the gymnasium at Central Lakes College in Brainerd would be host to Raiders basketball games. This December, however, is anything but typical, and it’s instead the site of a free community testing event for COVID-19.

A collaboration between the Minnesota Department of Health, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Crow Wing County and the Minnesota National Guard, the testing site is set up for people to walk through and self-administer a nasal swab test. Open to anyone who wants to get tested — symptomatic or asymptomatic — at no cost, the site has the capacity for approximately 480 tests per day. Appointments are strongly encouraged, but walk-ins will also be accepted.

A sign outside a door at Central Lakes College announces free COVID-19 testing Thursday, Dec. 17. Testing will be available Friday and Saturday at the college as well. Chelsey Perkins / Brainerd Dispatch

Jason Metsa, deputy commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation, said the three-day event came together quickly on short notice with help from Crow Wing County Public Health staff. He said when extra federal testing resources became available, those involved sought to get them into the rural reaches of the state.


“We really thought, from the Department of Health perspective, that it was really important to get out into Greater Minnesota into communities like this, with dense populations near each other, to be a service that could be utilized before the holidays so that people could use this and make whatever decisions for their families that suited them best,” Metsa said in the gym Thursday, Dec. 17.


Rick Aulie checks in for his appointment to administer a self-test for COVID-19 Thursday, Dec. 17, in the gymnasium at Central Lakes College in Brainerd. Chelsey Perkins / Brainerd Dispatch

Tables are spread throughout the gym with traffic lanes established with fluorescent tape. A National Guardsman checks in those who made appointments. From there, people proceed to another table where they’re given a swab and instructions from a public health nurse.

How does one self-administer a nasal swab test? It does not require the swab to go any higher than an inch into the nasal cavity. Two swirls in each nostril over the course of three seconds, and there’s enough of a sample to determine whether someone’s been infected with COVID-19.

The first day of testing yielded 145 completed tests and Metsa said they’re hoping the word spreads so more people — particularly those for whom access to COVID-19 testing may be a challenge for one reason or another — come to get tested if they choose.


“Today, we saw lots of senior citizens coming through, and that was really great,” Metsa said. “So we’re excited about the reception in the community today and looking forward to letting as many folks as we can know about the event so they can utilize it moving into Friday and Saturday.”

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Rick Aulie gives himself a nasal swab to test for COVID-19 at a community testing event Thursday, Dec. 17, in the gymnasium at Central Lakes College. Chelsey Perkins / Brainerd Dispatch

Couriers will pick up the swabs each day to deliver them to labs for testing, and those who get tested at the event should expect results in three to five days, Metsa said.

“We know waiting six, seven days kind of makes it a little less convenient to take the test with what you’re planning, and you kind of need that three to four day, five day window. And that’s what we’re hoping that the citizens here in Crow Wing County get, is the testing that they need access to,” he said.

In a news release earlier this week, Crow Wing County Public Health Supervisor Michelle Moritz stated although much of the focus this week is on the release of an effective and safe vaccine, it’s important for people to remain vigilant for symptoms and continue to get tested for COVID-19. This is particularly true for those who’ve been in close contact with other individuals who’ve tested positive — in that case, Moritz said to wait five to seven days before getting tested.

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A Minnesota National Guardsman and public health staff help to administer a community COVID-19 testing event Thursday, Dec. 17, at Central Lakes College. Chelsey Perkins / Brainerd Dispatch


“Testing saves lives when people know their COVID-19 status and are then able to isolate away from others to prevent further spread,” Moritz stated. “While we are excited to soon have a vaccine and end this pandemic, we need our community to help get our kids back to school and business back open by slowing the spread until we have the majority of our community vaccinated. Testing can be quick, easy, and now without a doctor’s order.”

How to get tested

Testing will be available 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday, Dec. 18, and 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 19, in the gymnasium at Central Lakes College, 501 W. College Drive, Brainerd.

The site will accept any symptomatic or asymptomatic person. After arriving at the testing location, follow instructions visible on the signage and given by on-site personnel. There are no public restrooms available.

To schedule an appointment, visit crowwing.us . Walk-ins will also be accepted. If an appointment is made, Crow Wing County stated it’s very important to print and bring the test voucher with on the day of the test.

For more details, visit https://bit.ly/3mqchvL .

COVID-19 data as of Dec. 17

The deaths of two area residents were among the 83 deaths reported by the state Thursday: a Cass County resident, age 75-79, and a Mille Lacs County resident, 95-99.

  • Aitkin — 945 (+61 since Friday, Dec. 11), with 31 deaths.

  • Cass — 1,808 (+113), with 14 (+1) deaths.

  • Crow Wing — 4,314 (+153), with 49 (+3) deaths.

  • Mille Lacs — 1,922 (+98), with 39 (+2) deaths.

  • Morrison — 2,790 (+98), with 36 deaths.

  • Todd — 2,139 (+62), with 21 (+5) deaths.

  • Wadena — 1,038 (+51), with 10 (+1) deaths.

NOTE: These numbers are cumulative since March 21 and many are out of isolation.


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