After several staff members were exposed to COVID-19, Crow Wing County officials decided to close the community services building beginning Thursday, Oct. 22.

In a news release, the county reported the closure is expected to extend through Nov. 2. All services remain available online and by phone. All other county buildings remain open during business hours of 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

“This decision was made out of an abundance of caution to both our staff and the residents they serve,” stated Community Services Director Kara Terry. “We want to reassure our community that staff will continue to work and offer all the services we provide when our doors are open. Maintaining individual needs of clients and families is always our priority.”

Residents are encouraged to call and make appointments to schedule time with a financial worker or social worker. There is a dropbox in front of the community services building at 204 Laurel St., Brainerd.

For assistance, call community services at 218-824-1140. Those with employees’ direct number can continue to contact their worker directly to schedule an appointment. Help is also available at crowwing.us.

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Area COVID-19 update

The deaths of three more area residents were reported Thursday, adding to the 13 already reported this week in the region.

Two more deaths occurred among Mille Lacs County residents, while another Wadena County resident died due to complications associated with COVID-19. Those in Mille Lacs County were between the ages of 85-89 years old and 90-94 years old, while the resident of Wadena County was 95-99 years old.

RELATED: 6 area residents among Wednesday’s COVID-19 death toll

Among seven area counties, 89 new confirmed cases were recorded by the health department Thursday. Added with those recorded earlier this week, the region has seen 516 total new infections confirmed since Oct. 16. Just about half of those cases have occurred in Crow Wing and Morrison counties.

Aitkin, Crow Wing counties part of COVID-19 home test pilot program

The Minnesota Department of Health launched the pilot of a free COVID-19 test at home saliva testing program, and Aitkin and Crow Wing are among the 24 Minnesota counties selected to participate.

People can now order a COVID-19 saliva test online that will be shipped to their home, along with a prepaid package to return it. Currently the pilot program is only available to residents in those 24 Minnesota counties.

“This is another tool that not only will give quick and accurate results, but it offers a convenient method to test for COVID that will further reduce the risk of exposure,” stated Crow Wing County Public Health Supervisor Michelle Moritz in a news release. “I encourage anyone that has known contacts with positive cases to test and help slow the spread by isolating at home. Hopefully this test can keep our exposure rate from rising and help to keep our businesses open and our children in school.”

RELATED: North-central counties see record-breaking new cases

When ready to take the test, people will log onto a website and do a video visit with a health care provider so they can give instructions and make sure the test is performed the right way. Then the test must be sent to a lab in Oakdale using the prepaid package. Once the test arrives at the lab, people will get test results by email as soon as 24-48 hours.

The saliva test is just as accurate as the nasal swab test, the health department reported, and is also used at in-person COVID-19 community saliva testing locations across the state. The saliva tests check whether people have COVID-19 right now and can spread it to others. It is not an antibody test that looks for evidence of having COVID-19 in the past.

Both adults and children can use these tests. An adult 18 or older must request a test for a child. People can request up to five tests per household through the website.

RELATED: Mille Lacs COVID-19 deaths more than double as Crow Wing, Morrison also report new deaths

Saliva testing may not be right for those with low saliva production, such as children under age 4 years old or someone who has suffered a stroke.

Testing is free for every Minnesotan with or without insurance. Those with insurance will need to provide the information so the insurance company can pay for your test. If insurance does not pay for COVID-19 tests or does not pay enough, the state will cover the cost. For those who do not have insurance, the state will pay for the test. People will not receive a bill.

For more information and to order a test visit https://bit.ly/3m7gGEa.

Tests are currently available to Minnesotans who live in: Aitkin County, Becker County, Beltrami County, Carver County, Cook County, Crow Wing County, Dakota County, Douglas County, Itasca County, Kandiyohi County, Kittson County, Le Sueur County, Lyon County, Mower County, Nobles County, Otter Tail County, Pennington County, Pine County, Red Lake Nation, Rock County, Steele County, Swift County, Wilkin County and Wright County.

COVID-19 data as of Oct. 22

  • Aitkin — 159 (+19 since Oct. 16), with two (+1) deaths.

  • Cass — 344 (+55), with five (+1) deaths.

  • Crow Wing — 948 (+141), with 21 deaths.

  • Mille Lacs — 376 (+47), with 13 (+6) deaths.

  • Morrison — 657 (+121), with eight (+3) deaths.

  • Todd — 752 (+95), with five (+3) deaths.

  • Wadena — 208 (+38), with two (+2) deaths.

NOTE: These numbers are cumulative since March 21 and many are out of isolation. The number of those no longer needing isolation is not reported on a county-level basis by the state.