With the transition to saliva testing at the state’s community COVID-19 testing sites, Wadena site logistics lead Gretchen Halvorson said the process is working well with people separated at different tables throughout the site.

The testing site had nasal swab tests available in November and December. Throughout December, a total of 1,341 tests were completed with an average of 102.5 tests a day. The number of tests administered Nov. 17-19, 23-24 and Dec. 1-3 was 1,364.

People can choose to be tested with or without symptoms and can walk-in or make an appointment online.

The saliva testing process includes many of the same elements as the nasal swab process, though with individual tables set up for people instead of a line of people receiving a test. There are also some new technology elements that you use your cell phone or a provided tablet for. And just because you’re at your own table doesn’t mean people aren’t ready to help with any questions.

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You might find yourself wondering at the length of the test as you keep spitting, which Wadena County Public Health nursing supervisor Erica Keppers said took her about five minutes to complete. You’ll still be in and out of the site in a short amount of time.

Here’s what else you might want to know about the saliva testing process at the Wadena Armory.

What should I know about the saliva test?

One of the key differences between the nasal swab and saliva test is not eating or drinking for 30 minutes prior to the test. But it’s still important to be well-hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids the night before or even the hours before your test.

“Most people are like, ‘Oh, I didn’t realize that it took this long to spit in a vile,’”said RN Jenny Klenk, who has worked at the Wadena site since November.

People have also found the saliva test to be more independent and private as you self-administer the test. There isn’t the fear of a long nasal swab being inserted into your brain, either, as many people expected when the site first opened. The swabs at the site were actually shorter in size, Klenk noted.

All in all, a 3-year-old was able to complete the saliva test, as Klenk shared.

Why can’t I eat or drink 30 minutes prior to the test?

By not eating, drinking, smoking or chewing gum, you help to get the best test result. Eating or drinking affects the count (amount) of the virus in your mouth, as Klenk explained.

How does a saliva test work?

The saliva and nasal swab tests show if people have an active COVID-19 infection.

“They’re (saliva tests) looking for three markers in the DNA of the virus that’s left over in us when we have it,” Klenk said.

The nasal swab tests use protein markers that are in the body if a person has been infected with the coronavirus.

How accurate are saliva tests?

Saliva tests are “just as accurate” as nasal swab tests, as Klenk said. In New York City, results from nasal swab and saliva tests showed the same results for 97.7% of the 285 tests completed by researchers, according to WebMD.

You can also learn more about saliva, nasal swab, antigen and antibody tests on the state’s health department website.

Is medical insurance required?

No, the test is free. You are not required to have insurance, though you will be asked if you have medical insurance.

If you have insurance, you will be asked to input your information. The state would then bill your insurance company on your behalf. The state will cover any testing cost that insurance does not.

Do I have to make an appointment?

No. Walk-ins are welcome during the facility’s open hours. However, making an appointment will make the process quicker at the facility.

After choosing an appointment time online you will receive an email that includes information about pre-registering. You will fill out your name, contact information, gender, race/ethnicity and other questions. This information will be required, whether completed prior or at the testing site.

To schedule an appointment online, the webpage will read "Vault Health" at the top and begin with three important notes before the "Choose Appointment" section.
To schedule an appointment online, the webpage will read "Vault Health" at the top and begin with three important notes before the "Choose Appointment" section.

When is the site open?

The testing site at the Wadena Armory is open on Jan. 13-16, 20-22 and 27-30 from noon-6 p.m. on those dates.

How will I get my test results?

You will receive your results by email. If you do not have an email, you will receive a phone call. You will also be contacted by a Minnesota Department of Health contact tracer if you test positive.

When will I get my test results?

The results are taking about 48-72 hours. Klenk said people have received results even the next day.

The tests are processed at the saliva lab in Oakdale, Minn., run by Vault Health and Infinity Biologix. The Vault Health saliva tests have been used in the state for the test at home option and providing a free test to school staff members.

What other testing options are available?

Nasal swab tests are available at local hospitals and clinics. A full list of testing options can be viewed at mn.gov/covid19/get-tested/testing-locations/index.jsp.

You can also request a free at home saliva test through the state by visiting the MDH website.