One of Minnesota's most heavily used free COVID-19 testing sites is being moved next week from the Minneapolis Convention Center to U.S. Bank Stadium.
The downtown stadium will provide PCR and rapid antigen COVID-19 tests for walk-ins or people with appointments Jan. 17-21, providing free parking in the adjacent Mills Fleet Farm Parking Garage and access through the enclosed skyway.
No appointments are available next week at the site, one of more than 20 provided by the state through a contract with Vault Health. Appointments were available as of 1 p.m. Thursday at several other free sites next week in the Twin Cities and greater Minnesota. Testing will resume at the convention center Jan. 24.
Testing has increased in Minnesota in response to the fast-spreading omicron virus variant. The positivity rate of testing has surged in Minnesota to a record 20.7% in the seven days ending Jan. 5, indicating widespread viral transmission.
State health officials are hopeful Minnesota's omicron wave will follow the pattern in other states and countries of a rapid peak over a few weeks followed by a decline. Communities and businesses have reinstated mask mandates and other mitigation strategies, and some schools have returned to remote learning.
Gov. Tim Walz on Thursday also announced his intent to commit $40 million in federal pandemic funds to buy more rapid antigen tests that Minnesotans can receive for free.
"No Minnesotan should have to go without a COVID-19 test because they can't afford it," Walz said in a statement, "and we're tapping every available resource to make sure every Minnesotan gets the public health tools they need to stay safe."