BEMIDJI -- Sanford Health has launched testing for the coronavirus using methods approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Tests will be available at Sanford clinics and medical centers, which will then be processed at the Sanford laboratory in Sioux Falls, a release said. Results would then be turned around in 24 to 48 hours.

To be tested, patients must meet high-risk criteria and have a physician order. Sanford estimates it will process nearly 400 tests per day, with plans to double that capacity in coming weeks.

"This was a tremendous effort on the part of our team to rapidly validate and launch our own internal testing," said Dr. Allison Suttle, Sanford Chief Medical Officer in the release. "Our testing will deliver faster results, enabling us to provide responsive care and keep our patients and staff safe."

If patients are experiencing symptoms, they're still encouraged to call their provider first, instead of going directly to the local medical center. Sanford Health is also offering e-visits for COVID-19 care.

In another release, Sanford announced it is cautioning the public against creating sewing masks.

Recently, there have been community members sewing masks for hospital workers, using guidelines developed by the Center for Disease Control. However, the CDC notes that homemade masks are not considered personal protective equipment since their capability to protect health care professionals is unknown.

In the release, Sanford states that COVID-19 cases are causing shortages with personal protective equipment in places like New York, California and Washington. Sanford Health of Northern Minnesota officials say there's enough medically issued equipment for staff and patients locally, though.

"We are conserving supplies, including masks, gowns and other protective equipment in preparation for the spread of COVID-19, but as of right now, we feel confident in the medically issued items we are providing," said Susan Jarvis, President and CEO of Sanford Health of Northern Minnesota. "We will absolutely keep the community informed should we have a need for homemade masks in the future."

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