Free COVID-19 testing Memorial Day Weekend: a personal account

With less than a week’s notice (last Tuesday), Gov. Tim Walz asked the Minnesota National Guard to partner with the Minnesota Dept. of Health to handle testing over the upcoming Memorial Day weekend. 

After the governor made the call, they organized six teams of 10 medics to handle testing, with one nurse to be on the team, along with National Guard personnel to help direct people around the testing sites.

“When we started, we had trouble at first because we only had one computer to enter the information,” said Alexandra Waterman, a medical siege coordinator in the Center for Emergency Preparedness and Response at the Minnesota Department of Health. She was on-site to help with the COVID-19 testing. 

Related Story: Free COVID-19 testing offered at six sites across the state this weekend

“We started out slow but after we received more computers we found it took about 15 minutes to go from the first table at the entrance until you get done with testing,” Waterman explained. 

The tests for the sites were provided by the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. They have the capacity to test 2,000 people per day with a total of 6,000 over the Memorial Day weekend.

The test sites offer testing inside and drive-up testing for those who are more susceptible to COVID-19 or are unable to stand in line.

A few pieces of information about the tests: this COVID-19 test swabs the inside of your nostril and lasts about 10 seconds. They don’t test for antibodies; the test only determines if you currently have COVID-19. 

Also, you don’t need to show symptoms to get a test, and anyone that wants a test can get one. This is the first mass state testing, and at the time of publication it isn’t known if there will be more free testing offered by the state.

A personal account

I wanted to get a test to see what it was like, as well as see if I had been exposed to the virus over the past few weeks of covering the COVID-19 pandemic as a photojournalist. 

I started out at the entrance where they gave me a form to fill out. I was then directed to a table and given a pen. After filling out my information, I dropped the pen off at a box for cleaning and brought my form over to a computer station where a National Guard member entered the information into the computer. They then directed me to the testing station. 

At the testing area, I was instructed to lean my head back and my nose was swabbed. The Q-tip went about 1/4 inch into my nose where circular motions were applied for about 10 seconds.

 Overall the experience was a lot easier than I thought it would be. It was awkward but not painful and over in about 10 seconds. The National Guard members were professional, quick, and in good spirits during the testing.

Through mass testing, South Korea was able to curb the infection rate by testing over 10,000 people per day. Because a lot of people who have contracted COVID-19 can be asymptomatic (without symptoms), testing everyone helps inform those who have the virus about their status so they can self-quarantine.

Testing will continue until 5 pm on Memorial Day or until supplies last. If you want a test you are encouraged to get one. They especially encourage those that are ill or know they were exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID to get tested as soon as possible.

COVID-19 Testing Locations:

East St Paul
1530 Maryland Ave E, St Paul, MN 55106

Minneapolis Armory
1025 Broadway St. NE, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55413

Moorhead Armory
1002 15th Ave N, Moorhead, MN 56560

Duluth Armory
4015 Airpark Blvd, Duluth, MN 55811

Faribault Armory
3000 W Airport Rd, Faribault, MN 55021

St. James Armory
521 Armstrong Blvd N, St James, MN 56081

For more information, go to