The state of Minnesota is planning to expand testing for the novel coronavirus among young adults ages 18-35 to help better control the asymptomatic transmission of the virus.
On a stop in Moorhead Wednesday, Gov. Tim Walz said the state is working on a plan to make testing more easily available for this age group, which includes hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans and represents a large number of new confirmed COVID-19 cases.
"What we're looking at is massive testing, either in pop-up kiosks in places we can go, and asking 18- to 35-year-olds pull over for 30 seconds and take this test,” Walz said, according to MPR News. “And we get a result instantly. This one we get in 15 minutes. And we can start to break this."
It makes sense to focus testing on this age group seeing as they make up the largest number of new cases in the state. Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) data as of Wednesday shows 20- to 24-year-olds have the highest number of cases totaling 17,336, while ages 20-34 total more than 43,200 cases since March.
However, few details on what this plan would entail have been shared, with MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm saying during Wednesday's call with reporters that it's still early in the planning and that a launch date hasn't been established, though Gov. Walz wants it available as soon as possible.
"We're doing a lot of planning right now on how we could pursue this strategy and the specifics of which test might best lend themselves to this," Malcolm said.
The governor's comments about expanding rapid testing come following a visit from White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx, who recommended getting a better handle on the number of asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic cases, especially those in the 18 to 35 age group, Malcolm explained.
"There are a lot of people circulating in the community who've been exposed who don't know it, don't know they're positive and are spreading the virus to others unknowingly," said Malcolm.
The goal would be using this testing to find asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic people and help them understand they're positive and they need to quarantine in order to break the chain of transmission, Malcolm said.
This move would be in addition to the community testing the state is already offering in the form of pop-up nasal swab testing sites and saliva testing. You can find more details on free testing locations here.