As the coronavirus spreads in northern Minnesota, state and county health departments are partnering to offer free COVID-19 tests next week for citizens on the Iron Range.

The Minnesota Department of Health and St. Louis County Public Health announced Wednesday afternoon that the agencies would run a two-day, drive-thru testing event at the County Fairgrounds in Chisholm, from 12-7 p.m. on Tuesday, July 28, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesday, July 29.

“Anyone who wants to be tested is encouraged to come, even if they don’t have symptoms of COVID-19,” the news release reads. “No insurance or identification is needed. While the testing is being done in Chisholm, residents from across the Iron Range are welcome and encouraged to be tested.”

The free testing comes as St. Louis County continues to report an uptick in coronavirus cases detected in the past month involving people living in the sparsely populated cities on the Iron Range.

Last week, the city of Virginia announced a student-athlete who tested positive for the virus. The latest news involving the first youth case in the region prompted the city’s Parks and Recreation Department to shut down its baseball and softball programs for two weeks. Previously, the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa reported that it had one band member in Vermilion test positive for the virus. Employees at United Taconite, Minorca Mine and Minntac have become infected as well.

As of Wednesday, St. Louis County (Pop. 200,000) had 299 cases of the coronavirus and 16 related deaths. The county had 161 cases at the end of June.

"We are seeing an increasing number of COVID-19 cases in Iron Range communities, and many appear to have been spread through community transmission," Amy Westbrook, director of the St. Louis County Public Health Division, wrote in the news release on Wednesday. "We encourage everyone to be tested. People may be asymptomatic and not realize they have the virus and could unknowingly spread it to others."

People interested in receiving free COVID-19 tests next week are encouraged to pre-register online at https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/teststlouis.html There is also a link to register at stlouiscountymn.gov/COVID19. Individuals are allowed to get a test without an appointment, but they may have to wait or be directed to come back later. Anyone who is unable to sign up online, or who needs a translator, can call 1-855-612-0677 for assistance.

To learn more, or to register, visit https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/teststlouis.html

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