Closeup of Curbsite Testing COVID-19 sign at St. Gabriel's Hospital, May 12, 2020.

COVID-19 Testing in Morrison County

I was running a couple of errands the other day and happened to be in the neighborhood of St. Gabriel’s Hospital. While there, I spotted another sign related to the pandemic for our collection at the Morrison County Historical Society. In large blue letters by the hospital was the message, “Heroes Work Here.” I stopped to get a photo.

"Heroes Work Here" sign in blue letters against a west exterior wall of St. Gabriel's Hospital, Little Falls, MN, May 11, 2020.
“Heroes Work Here” sign in blue letters against a west exterior wall of St. Gabriel’s Hospital, Little Falls, MN, May 11, 2020.

As I was driving through the parking area trying to find my way back to First Street, I spotted another sign and a tent in the parking lot that did not register with me immediately, mostly because I was concentrating on driving.

After leaving the parking lot, I realized what the sign was indicating. The hospital was offering curbside COVID-19 testing. Whoa! I knew I needed a picture of that.

Testing has been a major issue with this pandemic, with a lack of testing leading to our stay-at-home orders around the country. Without adequate testing, it’s difficult to know who needs to be quarantined and how fast and where the disease is spreading.

Due to limited test availability, only the sickest or most at-risk have been able to access tests. If you had any of the symptoms of COVID-19 but weren’t in need of hospitalization, you couldn’t get tested. You were sent home to self-quarantine for 14 days.

Urban areas with their higher population densities and greater access to testing showed the first cases of COVID-19 in the state. Rural areas, like Morrison County, with our lower population density had so little access to testing that it was easy to become complacent and think the disease wouldn’t affect us.

I watched the Minnesota Department of Health’s Situation Update for COVID-19 on a daily basis to see when Morrison County would record its first case. Day after day in April, as counties on the state map were colored in to indicate cases of the disease, Morrison County remained uncolored as counties surrounding us recorded cases. How could we not have it here? Finally, on April 18, 2020, Morrison County recorded its first case of COVID-19.

I took screen shots of the Minnesota Department of Health’s maps on April 18 and April 20 to show the change. By this time, I’d become so accustomed to the county showing no cases that I skipped a day in taking screen shots. That’s what complacency will do to you … it makes you let down your guard.

Screenshot, COVID-19 cases by county in the State of Minnesota, Minnesota Department of Health, April 18, 2020. Note that Morrison County in the center of the state appears in white, meaning no cases have been recorded. The Minnesota Department of Health updated its website daily at 11 a.m., with data current as of 4 p.m. the previous day.
Screenshot, COVID-19 cases by county in the State of Minnesota, Minnesota Department of Health, April 18, 2020. Note that Morrison County in the center of the state appears in white, meaning no cases have been recorded. The Minnesota Department of Health updated its website daily at 11 a.m., with data current as of 4 p.m. the previous day.
Screenshot, COVID-19 cases by county in the State of Minnesota, Minnesota Department of Health, April 20, 2020. Morrison County in the center of the state finally shows a case of COVID-19, which is indicated by its being a light green in color. The Minnesota Department of Health updated its website daily at 11 a.m., with data current as of 4 p.m. the previous day.
Screenshot, COVID-19 cases by county in the State of Minnesota, Minnesota Department of Health, April 20, 2020. Morrison County in the center of the state finally shows a case of COVID-19, which is indicated by its being a light green in color. The Minnesota Department of Health updated its website daily at 11 a.m., with data current as of 4 p.m. the previous day.

Testing is so important to controlling the pandemic that Governor Tim Walz and his team have been making this a priority. That’s why, given the previous lack of testing, spotting a sign for curbside testing at St. Gabriel’s Hospital is a watershed moment for Morrison County. I went back the next day for a photo. By this time, the tent for testing had been moved to a different area, so I only got a photo of one of the signs directing people to where the tent was located.

Sign - "Curbside Testing COVID-19 - By Appointment Only," St. Gabriel's Hospital, Little Falls, MN, May 12, 2020.
Sign – “Curbside Testing COVID-19 – By Appointment Only,” St. Gabriel’s Hospital, Little Falls, MN, May 12, 2020.

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has an online Self-Screening Tool to determine whether you should be tested for COVID-19. According to MDH’s website on testing locations, the hospital’s testing facility is available 24/7, every day of the week and is open to any symptomatic patient, though you do need to have an appointment. If you think you need to be tested, call St. Gabriel’s Hospital at 320-631-5100 to make an appointment.

St. Gabriel’s is the only COVID-19 test facility in Morrison County at this time. To find other testing locations, visit MDH’s Finding Testing Locations.

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