Since the COVID-19 emergency began, Governor Walz and public health experts have said a plan to increase and expand testing would be a critical piece of reopening parts of society. This week, state leaders announced a partnership between two entities that have been developing tests – Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota – that will provide testing capacity to health systems across the state.
The coordination among health plans will help ensure every person in the state with symptoms of COVID-19 receives a test. The goal is to have the structure fully established in the next three to four weeks, at which point the state would have capacity to provide 20,000 molecular tests and 15,000 serology (antibody) tests per day.
The plan is partly funded by $36 million from the COVID-19 Minnesota Fund that the Legislature approved in late March. In partnership with the Minnesota Department of Health, 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.
Governor Walz announced this new capacity should allow Minnesota to be testing at a rate higher than the rest of the country and perhaps the world. However, he warned it is not a guarantee that everything will reopen quickly. It gives the state more power to identify hotspots and provide rapid response when outbreaks occur, but social distancing is still critically important until a vaccine or other therapeutics can be secured.
State leaders said every Minnesotan who needs a test will receive one, regardless of health insurance status or finances. The Department of Health is working on a website that will allow Minnesotans to identify where tests are available on any given day. In the meantime, health leaders recommend that those experiencing systems still call their provider before leaving their homes so proper instructions can be provided.