Minnesota will soon be able to test 20,000 people per day—up from 8,000—for the virus that causes COVID-19. The new strategy comes from the work of scientists and public health experts at the University of Minnesota, the Mayo Clinic, and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). Gov. Tim Walz announced the extraordinary development Wednesday, April 22, 2020.
The new testing strategy coordinates efforts around the state to enable testing of all symptomatic people, isolate confirmed cases, and expand public health surveillance tools, according to the governor's news release. "By building capacity to test as many as 20,000 Minnesotans per day, this increased testing and tracing will help improve control of this pandemic and support the safe re-opening of society," the governor said in a news release.
It will especially improve the ability to diagnose and care for "individuals living in congregate care settings or experiencing homelessness, communities of color and American Indians, and critical workers," said Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan.
In partnership with MDH, the Mayo Clinic and the U of M will create a central lab to accommodate the expanded testing and a virtual command center in coordination with the health systems to monitor daily testing needs and coordinate rapid responses to outbreaks. The new protocols will expand contact tracing efforts for better control of the infection. The partnership will help to identify and respond to emerging “hotspots” of infection. It will collect data on prevalence, geographic distribution, and barriers to caring for people with the virus, and conduct groundbreaking research on COVID-19 to ensure that tests are applied according to the best emerging science.
“This is a complex health challenge. It is only fitting that two of Minnesota’s pre-eminent research institutions answer the call together in our commitment to tackling this pandemic," said Jakub Tolar, dean of the University of Minnesota Medical School. "We are deeply grateful to Gov. Walz and Minnesota leaders for supporting this testing strategy."
Watch a video of the news conference.