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Free COVID rapid tests now available across Minnesota

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Free COVID rapid tests now available across Minnesota

Free rapid tests for the coronavirus are now being offered across Minnesota for people with possible symptoms of COVID-19, health officials announced Wednesday.

The tests, which offer results in one to three hours, began being offered at some in-person testing sites Wednesday, and more locations will offer the tests next week.

In the metro, St. Paul’s RiverCentre and the Stillwater Armory began offering the tests Wednesday. The Starlite Center in Brooklyn Park will begin offering them Friday. A site in Inver Grove Heights will open next week.

The tests, which offer a swiftness of results increasingly demanded by the public, are being paid for by a combination of public funds and insurance companies, with logistics and staffing supported by the Minnesota National Guard.

Here are a few important points:

NOT TAKE-HOME

These aren’t take-home tests. You go in person, and you receive your results within one to three hours. That’s slower than take-home tests being sold at stores, which can give results in as little as 15 minutes. But take-home tests cost at least $20, and in recent weeks stores are often sold out. The technology is the same: The antigen tests detect proteins associated with SARS-CoV-2.

WALK-IN OR APPOINTMENT

The rapid tests will be available at community testing sites that will accept walk-ins, but you can also make an appointment.

To see a list of all the locations, their hours, and information for scheduling, go to MN.gov/covid19/get-tested/testing-locations.

TESTING LOCATIONS

Many of the sites are the same locations that already offer saliva tests. However, not all community testing sites that offer saliva tests will have rapid tests available. All are free.

By the end of next week, rapid testing will be offered in the following cities: St. Paul, Inver Grove Heights, Stillwater, Brooklyn Center, Crookston, Hutchinson, Wadena, Hibbing, Albert Lea, Duluth and Moorhead.

NASAL (NOT BRAIN) SWAB

The rapid test involves a nasal swab. Basically, that’s a Q-tip swirled around the nostril. They’re a little annoying, but they’re not the nasopharyngeal tests of 2020 where they shove a super-long thing so far up your nose you feel like your brain is getting swabbed.

FOR SYMPTOMATIC PEOPLE

Health officials are recommending the rapid tests for people with possible symptoms of COVID-19. That’s because that’s how they work best. Antigen tests are the most effective at detecting the coronavirus when there are lots of viral cells in your nose — such as when you’re sick. So they’re great when you need to figure out whether you’ve got a cold, allergies or COVID-19.

However, they’re not as sensitive as polymerase chain reaction (PCR) saliva tests, which detect the virus’ genetic materials. So, for routine screening of people with no known symptoms or exposures, rapid tests aren’t as effective. For that purpose, PCR saliva tests are the way to go, even though it usually takes at least a day, and sometimes several, to learn your results.

SALIVA/PCR CONFIRMATION?

Because rapid antigen tests aren’t as sensitive as PCR tests, they can miss some cases — a false negative. The Minnesota Department of Health is recommending that people who have symptoms and receive a negative result on a rapid test still get a saliva PCR test to confirm they don’t have COVID. (The online list of testing locations includes both rapid and saliva options.)

Today’s rapid antigen tests approved for use in America have improved since the early days of their arrival. (Weaknesses of the first generation of rapid tests could be one of the reasons why the virus got inside the White House in 2020 and sickened former President Donald Trump.) Today’s antigen tests are highly “specific,” so false positives — thinking someone has COVID when they don’t — are rare.

If you test positive for COVID-19 in a rapid test, you should consider yourself positive. The Department of Health does not recommend you need to confirm a rapid positive result with a PCR test.

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Boston pension payouts at-a-glance

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Boston pension payouts at-a-glance

The city’s pension payouts list police and fire commanders atop the heap with a total of 470 retirees from various departments pulling down six figures annually. Here are the annual pensions at a glance:

Top 5:

$193,570 William Gross, former police commissioner

$185,416 John McDonough, ex-school superintendent

$181,979 Lisa Holmes, past BPD superintendent

$178,086 William Ridge, past BPD superintendent

$173,278 Joseph Finn, former fire commissioner

Oldest pensions:

1956, Joseph Vogel, firefighter hurt on job, $14,446

1959, Leroy Mahoney, firefighter injured, $20,158

1964, Robert Glynn, police officer injured, $20,083

1970, James Hardaway, firefighter hurt, $19,129

1974, Frank Murano, BFD injured on job, $24,835

Miscellaneous:

$111,126, top-earning retired teacher

$108,890, top fire scuba diver

$52,673 Ray Flynn, former mayor

$33,752, tree climber

$32,562, vehicle impound specialist

$21,216, telephone operator

Go to bostonherald.com for the database listing all 12,718 city retirees.

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Full Boston pension database: Your Tax Dollars at Work

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Full Boston pension database: Your Tax Dollars at Work

For the first time, here are the 12,700 City of Boston retirees listed by name, annual pension, date of retirement and last job.

To search on this database, click the magnifying glass icon (at right) and enter names and more. Use the scroll bar at bottom to move the data over to the right to sort by highest to lowest. Send any tips or questions to [email protected] See other payroll databases here. Follow the Watchdog newsletter for related coverage.

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Geoff Diehl demands Charlie Baker veto coronavirus spending bill over inadequate unemployment funding

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Geoff Diehl demands Charlie Baker veto coronavirus spending bill over inadequate unemployment funding

The sole major Republican candidate for governor in next year’s election is calling on Gov. Charlie Baker to veto a $4 billion coronavirus relief spending bill he says saddles billions of dollars of unemployment debt on the backs of businesses.

“There is a clear and present need to protect Massachusetts businesses — and through them, the workers they employ — from the imminent threat of higher taxes,” said Geoff Diehl, a former Whitman state representative. “For our state to allocate recently received federal funding without adequately protecting our state’s economy from potential disaster is irresponsible and must be corrected.”

Lawmakers agreed to funnel $500 million to help pay back what could amount to up to $7 billion in debt after the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund paid out a historic number of claims amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Business industry leaders have said a minimum contribution of $2 billion from the state is needed to relieve the burden on businesses that fund the UI account through a payroll tax.

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