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Free Iron Range COVID-19 testing draws more than 1,300 residents over 2 days

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CHISHOLM, MN-- In St. Louis County, 332 residents have tested positive for COVID-19, with a third of those cases having been reported since the July 4th holiday weekend.

With COVID-19 cases rising on the Iron Range and few open testing opportunities for residents, community leaders hope a free two-day testing site in Chisholm will help stop the spread.

"We're encouraging people with symptoms, without symptoms to come and get tested, understand their status," said Amy Westbrook, the St. Louis County Public Health Division Director.

As of Tuesday afternoon, more than 1,300 St. Louis County residents had pre-registered for the event.

Residents will drive through the garage testing site at the Minnesota Discovery Center on the St. Louis County Fairgrounds.

"It is a drive up and we have multiple lines for cars to come in," Westbrook said. "Everybody stays in their vehicle. And we have our public health nurses swabbing people."

Minnesota's District 6A House Representative Julie Sandstede helped organize the event after talking with local steelworkers.

They had concerns that mine facilities on the Iron Range were dealing with low staffing after employees tested positive for the coronavirus.

"We want to ensure companies that are operating at a mostly reduced rate can continue to operate without having the risk of employees out," Sandstede said. "They were really bumping up against shortages of workers."

With cases rising, data from the event could provide state and county leaders more information about community transmission and the spread of the virus.

On the Iron Range, this was the first free community testing site. Prior to this event, people had only been able to get tested at hospitals.

"Access to testing has been very, very problematic. So this is really a great opportunity for everybody," Sandstede said. "For workers, the elderly, the young. Just to really see how things are behaving up here."

The testing event will be open again from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Minnesota Discovery Center.

Pre-registration isn't required but appreciated. To learn more about the testing site and to register, click here.

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Emma Quinn

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Larissa Milles

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