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Mitchell: What's the testing process like at the Wadena Armory?

I found the process to be easy and efficient.

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Wadena County Public Health nursing supervisor Erica Keppers walks to one of the check-in stations at the Wadena Armory COVID-19 testing site. Rebecca Mitchell/Pioneer Journal

With free COVID-19 testing at the Wadena Armory I wondered, like many of you, what the process would be like and how many people were using the option. People do not have to have symptoms to be tested and can return for testing multiple times as needed or as you are comfortable.

Below is a bit about the testing experience.

When entering the Wadena Armory it feels much like a wide-open gym complete with a few tables where nurses and Minnesota National Guard members are prepared to help—and efficient in getting you out quickly. I was in and out in under five minutes.

Along the way you’ll be directed by signs and guard members, though the test is completed by a nurse. I made an appointment in the early evening and there were only two other people being tested. Appointments are not necessary, but you have the option.

With a pump of hand sanitizer and a disposable surgical mask, you’ll be pointed down the first row. If you are already wearing a mask, you’ll be asked to put on the new mask or place it on top of your current one. The surgical mask allows staff members to know you've been through the check-in process as well as a convenience factor in completing the test. And there’s no temperature taking.

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There are two lines to space out people, walk-ins and online registration, which mostly are available if the space is busy. Like testing at Tri-County and area hospitals, be prepared to answer if you’ve had any symptoms and know your birth date.

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Minnesota National Guard members will check you in at one of two tables depending on if you walked-in or signed up online. Rebecca Mitchell/Pioneer Journal

If you filled out a registration form online or over the phone, your name and your birth date are the only identifying factors they’ll ask at the Armory. On the forms, you include your phone number and/or email, address, any symptoms you might be having and if you’ve been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19.

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Keppers waits on a marked spot to complete her COVID-19 nasal swab test. Rebecca Mitchell/Pioneer Journal

You’ll end at a line with numbered cones in front of you and taped Xs on the ground. You’ll see gloves and testing materials lining the last two tables. A nurse decked out in personal protective equipment will verify your name and birth date.

And in a time of social distancing and wearing masks, testing requires the nurse to briefly come close and the person to pull down their mask to just below their nose. The nurse will insert the nasal swab into both of your nostrils, twirling it around for about 5-10 seconds on each side.

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I was definitely nervous about how the nasal swab would feel and was pleasantly surprised how quickly it was over. Your nose might feel a little weird afterwards. I’ve had it feel like my nostril is wide open or have my nose be kind of runny.

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A COVID-19 nasal swab test is inserted into each nostril for about 5-10 seconds. “This isn’t the brain tickler, so that’s good,” said site logistics lead Jackie Awes. Rebecca Mitchell/Pioneer Journal

You’ll get a range of days for when the test results are expected to be returned. I got two to five days; my results came on the sixth day due to the high testing demand before Thanksgiving. Your results will come through an individual link in a text message. If you test positive, you will also receive a phone call from a Minnesota Department of Health contact tracer.

And that’s it. No insurance card, payment or anything else. Just let the waiting ensue.

If you have not been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19 or do not have symptoms, you do not have to stay home while waiting for your test results.

If you develop symptoms or your symptoms worsen, make sure to contact your doctor or healthcare provider and stay home.

And remember the free Wadena Armory testing site is open through January and if you’d like you can be tested again in the future for any reason.

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More information

The Wadena Armory has free COVID-19 testing from noon-6 p.m. on select dates through December and January. Testing is available for people with or without symptoms. Walk-ins are accepted; you can also make an appointment at www.primarybio.com/r/wadena or call 1-855-612-0677.

The state also offers free at-home salvia tests. You read more about the tests and order a test at www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/testsites/athome.html .

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To schedule an appointment online, the webpage will read "Wadena Community COVID-19 Testing" and "Schedule Appointment" at the top and begin with a Tennessen warning.

COVID-19 information

Editor’s note: Reporter Rebecca Mitchell was voluntarily tested for COVID-19 due to her age between 18-35 years old. People from 18-35 years old are being encouraged to get tested due to a high percentage of asymptomatic cases in this age range. People of any age can be asymptomatic.

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You'll be reminded of the symptoms of COVID-19 at several tables along the way. The symptoms include a fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting and diarrhea. Rebecca Mitchell/Pioneer Journal

Rebecca Mitchell started as a Digital Content Producer for the Post Bulletin in August 2022. She specializes in feature reporting as well as enhancing online articles. Readers can reach Rebecca at 507-285-7681 or rmitchell@postbulletin.com.
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