As the numbers of COVID-19 cases continue to explode all across Minnesota, increased testing has become critically important. And the University of Minnesota, in partnership with the State of Minnesota, is stepping up with a free two-day saliva-testing event for the U of M Twin Cities community November 16 and 17 at the Field House on the Twin Cities campus in Minneapolis.
The mass testing, which runs from noon to 6 p.m. both days, is being hosted by the University of Minnesota Medical Reserve Corps with the assistance of many campus units, and is part of a rollout of about a dozen new testing sites around Minnesota.
Students, faculty, staff, and local community members are encouraged to test for COVID-19 during this event if concerned about a possible exposure, whether or not they are symptomatic. Make an appointment.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the University’s goal has been to give its community information, choices, and support, says Jill DeBoer, director of the Health Emergency Response Office (HERO). “We also want to give them choices for testing and support for testing.”
So in addition to a free mail-in saliva test for all 89,000 students and staff systemwide—and the dramatic expansion of appointments available through Boynton at the Rec Well site on the Twin Cities campus—the U of M Twin Cities is working with the state to offer this special option to reach a lot of people at once. According to DeBoer, there are about 4,000 students living in residence halls, another 30,000 in off-campus apartments or rental homes, and about 10,000 staff and faculty who are routinely on campus.
The testing event has required massive coordination and assistance. About 100 people are involved from many departments, including the Office of Student Affairs, Office of Information Technology, Facilities Management, UMarket Services, and Parking and Transportation Services. Most of the volunteers are members of the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC), which was founded in 2004 to respond to scenarios just like this. (Read a story about the MRC’s early response to COVID.)
Helena Sverak, a senior majoring in biochemistry and in her third year volunteering with the MRC, noted the timing of the testing while a line of participants was forming on the sidewalk outside the Field House. “This is probably the best time we could be doing this because a lot of people are going home for Thanksgiving and COVID right now is the worst it’s ever been,” she says. “And being able to get tested before going home will give a lot of people more information that they need to be responsible.”
“It definitely is going to provide me with a lot of relief in knowing whether or not I can go home,” says Sydney Redepenning, a second-year student studying biology and public health. She, too, was volunteering for the MRC and also works for HERO.
“We’re really lucky to be at a university that has been preparing for this sooner than just this year,” she adds, “because they’ve been so consistently [ready] for any public health situation like this.”