The Free Press

MANKATO — Free COVID-19 testing could be available in a neighborhood near you — maybe even yours — during the next two weeks.

The Minnesota Department of Health, supported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, launched a statewide survey on COVID this week. Public health professionals will visit randomly selected households at 180 sites across the state to offer voluntary COVID tests and questionnaires through Sept. 30.

The goal is to understand more about COVID-19’s community spread, according to a press release from the health department.

“With a new virus, we have to learn as we go and adapt our response based on new data,” Dr. Ruth Lynfield, state epidemiologist, stated in the release. “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.”

If a household agrees to participate, one member will be asked to complete a questionnaire about COVID.

Any household members who want can take a swab test to see if they currently have COVID and an antibody test using a finger stick to draw a few drops of blood to see if they previously had COVID.

Health workers conducting the surveys will be wearing face masks, vests and badges identifying themselves as part of the health department’s survey team. They’ll be visiting census blocks, although no specific locations were listed in the release, with households randomly selected within the blocks.

Nicollet County posted on its Facebook page saying surveyors will be out in the county between Thursday and Saturday. Other county public health Facebook pages also shared the survey information with followers.

The survey tool, known as CASPER, is also used to assess community needs following other public health emergencies such as hurricanes, oil spills and the Zika virus outbreak.

Similar surveys will be conducted in other states.

COVID relief funds will cover costs for the survey. For more information, visit www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/casper.html.

Follow Brian Arola @BrianArola

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