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Minnesota seeks volunteers for free COVID-19 tests to assess virus spread

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Minnesota seeks volunteers for free COVID-19 tests to assess virus spread

Kristin Anderson, a medic with the Minnesota Air National Guard’s 133rd Medical Group, administered a free COVID-19 test to Jimmie Turner, 65, of Stillwater, in late May. — Aaron Lavinsky, Star Tribune file The Minnesota Department of Health is going door to door across the state to find volunteers for free COVID-19 diagnostic and antibody testing to assess the actual spread of the pandemic.

While Minnesota as of Tuesday had reported 1,927 COVID-19 deaths and 85,351 infections with the novel coronavirus that causes the disease, that doesn’t include thousands of people who suffered mild or asymptomatic cases and never sought testing. State health officials said an accurate assessment is needed to inform Minnesota’s pandemic response and to identify hot spots at risk for more cases. Prevalence studies also indicate if the population is getting closer to a level of “herd immunity” that chokes the spread of the virus.

“With a new virus, we have to learn as we go and adapt our response based on new data,” said Dr. Ruth Lynfield, state epidemiologist. “Information we gather in this survey will allow us to refine our recommendations to best meet the needs of our Minnesota communities in the prevention of COVID-19.”

COVID-19 survey team workers will offer in-person testing this month to households in 180 neighborhoods, which were selected across Minnesota to generate a random but diverse group for research. Volunteers receive $20 gift cards per household. State health officials will contact anyone whose results indicate an active infection.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this summer estimated there are as many as 10 unknown infections for every known case. That suggests […]

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