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Gov. Walz announces plan to create COVID-19 saliva testing lab in Minnesota

It's hoped the lab will double the state's testing capacity, including the potential for home testing.

Gov. Tim Walz has announced Minnesota has entered a partnership to create a new lab delivering saliva testing for COVID-19.

The state is finalizing a deal with Vault Health and RUCDR Infinite Biologics, the latter of which became the first company to get FDA authorized to conduct diagnostic saliva tests for the virus.

Vault Health meanwhile provides "logistics and telehealth services necessary to carry out the test," which could include talking Minnesotans through the process of testing themselves at home.

Walz says it's hoped that when the lab is up and running, potentially by early October, it will allow Minnesota to more than double its current testing capacity, processing as many as 30,000 samples a day and creating 250 jobs.

The Harvard School of Public Health estimates that Minnesota needs to do a little over 17,000 tests a day to successfully mitigate the spread of the virus, and 63,500 tests a day to suppress the virus.

The value of the contract is $14.66 million, paid for using federal CARES Act funding.

The Walz Administration had suggested the use of saliva tests be made available to teachers amid the return to school next month, albeit a significant number of school districts are planning to reopen with distance learning or a hybrid plan of in-person and remote instruction.

A saliva test requires less PPE than a traditional swab as it is self-collected under the supervision of a healthcare professional, and is also less invasive than the current diagnostic test in adults, which requires a swab towards the back of the nose.

The test requires patients to spit into a funnel attached to a small test tube, and once enough saliva is collected, the tube is closed with a plug that releases a preservative into the sample, with the sample then returned in a prepaid envelope.

Results of the saliva test are expected to take between 48 and 72 hours.

When it's up and running, Minnesotans are expected to be able to access the tests in three ways:

  • At one of 10 "semi-permanent sites" staffed by 15-20 people.
  • At mobile testing events across the state.
  • At home using a testing kit sent overnight via UPS, under the telehealth supervision of Vault Health.

“Public-private partnerships are the key to success in our state’s effort to combat COVID-19,” said Governor Walz Tuesday.

"We’ve come a long way on testing thanks to our work with the Mayo Clinic, the University of Minnesota, and our state’s health systems, but we’re looking to make COVID-19 tests even more accessible."

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