BEMIDJI -- Bemidji State University will host a free COVID-19 saliva testing clinic for BSU and NTC students in the Gillett Wellness Center from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 17, in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Health.

Faith Hensrud, BSU and NTC president, said in a release the testing event will be an important mitigation strategy as the college and university approach fall breaks.

“Statewide, Minnesota is experiencing a shocking surge in COVID-19 cases, and here in Beltrami we are seeing our highest numbers of confirmed cases and hospitalizations,” Hensrud said. “Aggressive testing is a proven strategy to help us address this crisis and to help ensure the health and wellbeing of our campuses and the Bemidji community.”

According to MDH, it is likely most students have been exposed to COVID-19 at some point in the past month. The free testing event is part of a broader strategy to help students learn if they are an asymptomatic carrier of the virus, which will help contain further spread, the release said.

The administered tests at BSU will be saliva tests, not nasal tests. Saliva tests gather approximately one tablespoon of saliva in a sample tube, which is returned to Minneapolis-based "Vault Labs" by overnight mail. Students who participate in the testing are asked to adhere to the following guidelines:

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  • Arrive with clean hands.

  • No water should be consumed for at least 10 minutes prior to collection.

  • Do not consume liquids or food and do not smoke, use nasal sprays or teeth cleaning products or chew gum for at least 30 minutes before sample collection.

Samples will be collected on-site by trained observers wearing personal protective equipment.

On Nov. 9, Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan announced a significant expansion in the state’s COVID-19 testing in direct response to the rapidly increasing number of positive cases among Minnesotans between the ages of 18–35.

Approximately 1,200 free tests will be administered to students, and the MDH expects to have results available in 24 to 48 hours. Students will be encouraged to self-report their results to BSU’s student COVID-19 hotline.

To accommodate for this event, the Gillett Wellness Center will be closed to regular activities. No parking permits will be required to park outside the center for students who wish to participate in the testing event.