DULUTH -- Essentia Health has changed its COVID-19 testing procedure and now requires patients who have scheduled a COVID-19 test at any of its clinics to perform it themselves.

The change only applies to patients who have just scheduled a test and not a routine visit with their provider, a news release from Essentia said. After checking in at their appointment, patients will receive a test kit with instructions and be asked to go back to their vehicle to conduct the nasal swab. Patients will then return the sample to a collection location.

The change frees up Essentia staff so they can more readily offer other services such as COVID-19 booster vaccines and flu vaccines, the release stated.

"Not only has demand for tests increased, but the shutdown of many government testing sites has funneled more patients into Essentia’s clinics, creating volume challenges for our staff and patients," the release said.

In order to receive a COVID-19 test at an Essentia clinic, patients must schedule an appointment through their MyChart patient portal or by calling their local clinic.