ST. CLOUD – The free COVID-19 saliva testing site set up in downtown St. Cloud will be operational through at least the end of the year, a top state health official says.

The site, which opened in late October at the River’s Edge Convention Center, offers free COVID-19 tests every week from Wednesday through Sunday. Dan Huff, Assistant Commissioner for the Minnesota Department of Health, describes the set-up as "semi-permanent," and says keeping the site open and offering tests will depend on two variables.

“Number one is the course of the pandemic,” Huff said. “But, it’s also dependent upon our ability to get continued federal funding so that we can keep these sites open for everyone.”

The site is open to anyone who wants to be tested for COVID-19, including people who suspect they could asymptomatic for the virus. The site is one of many around the state offering the self-directed, saliva-based test.

“I’ve had the (nasal swab) test done, and it is not fun,” Huff said. “With this, you get a little tube, and you just start filling it up with saliva. When you get to a certain amount – two millimeters – you put on the cap, shake it up, drop it in the box, and you’re done.”

Huff says the saliva test has been found to be just as effective at detecting COVID-19 as nasal swab tests.

“We perform rigorous scientific testing on every test we roll out so that we know they’re accurate,” he said. “They’re all sensitive, and they’re specific.”

Officials encourage residents to sign up for appointments in advance to speed up the process.

“It’s faster if you sign up beforehand online,” said Huff. “But you don’t have to.”

To learn more or make an appointment, visit the Vault Health Registration site.