Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on Thursday joined a growing number of airports across the country offering COVID-19 testing.
The testing site at the airport is open to the public, not just air travelers and airline and airport employees. Located in Terminal 1, it’s the ninth COVID-19 PCR (polymerase chain reaction) saliva testing location to open in Minnesota.
“It’s a great location with great logistics,” Dan Huff, assistant commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Health, said Thursday. “You do not have to be flying to go here. This is open to anyone in Minnesota.”
It takes 24 to 48 hours to receive the results from the PCR saliva test offered at the airport. It’s not a rapid test that might be used by travelers to quickly determine their infection status before boarding an airplane.
“If you are sick, have [COVID-19] symptoms or tested positive, do not travel, stay home,” Huff said. “That includes if you’re out of state — don’t come back if you have tested positive.”
The test at the airport is available at no cost to Minnesota residents, though people with insurance will need to provide their information for reimbursement purposes.
The PCR test, operated by Vault Medical Services, takes about 15 minutes to administer and involves spitting into a plastic tube. Test results are sent by e-mail. While no appointment is necessary, reservations are encouraged, and walk-in service and advance reservations are available.
Airport officials said the testing site builds upon the Travel Confidently program it launched this summer, which promoted masks, social distancing and hand sanitizing, and added plexiglass to shield travelers and employees.
“This testing is just one more addition to be able to travel in a safe and efficient manner,” said Roy Fuhrmann, chief operating officer of the Metropolitan Airports Commission, which owns and operates MSP.
Some states, such as New York and Hawaii, require proof of a negative test before travelers can arrive there.
Should Minnesota go that route in the future, Fuhrmann said the airport will be well-positioned to provide enhanced testing.
For now, passenger volume at the airport is down about 68 to 70% from last year, Fuhrmann said.
Malinda King of St. Paul made an appointment at the airport testing site for Thursday because she’s traveling to Boston in a few days. Because Massachusetts is a state that requires a negative test to enter, “I have to have this test,” she said.
The airport testing site is located near the former Terminal 1 rental car counters adjacent to Level 2 of the Blue Ramp. The site is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week.
Parking for two hours is available on Level 4 of the Blue Ramp, and those taking the test should take a ticket at the entrance to the ramp. The airport is also served by Metro Transit buses and the Blue Line light rail.
The state’s 10th PCR saliva test site is slated to open Monday in Burnsville at the former Pier 1 store, 1501 W. County Road 42. In addition, 11 more nasal swab testing sites will open across Minnesota in coming weeks. Ten of the testing sites will be at National Guard armories in Albert Lea, Anoka, Crookston, Fairmont, Hibbing, Hutchinson, Inver Grove Heights, Morris, Stillwater and Wadena; the 11th site will be located in the west metro area.
The Health Department also has rolled out mail-in saliva tests, which will be sent to a lab in Oakdale.
Once a sample arrives at the lab, results will be available by e-mail in 24 to 48 hours.
“It’s important that all of us in Minnesota take advantage of these many testing opportunities,” Huff said, adding that people between the ages of 18 and 35 should seek testing right away.
“If you’re young and asymptomatic, you can spread it to others,” he said. “If you’re coming home from college or coming home for the holidays for Thanksgiving, get tested before you come home. Everyone should get tested before they come home to visit relatives.”
Huff concluded: “We are at an alarming place in Minnesota with the pandemic. We need to protect each other. We need to stop the spread of this disease.”