Gov. Tim Walz has announced a strategy to test "all symptomatic people" for the coronavirus in Minnesota, as well as a plan to isolate confirmed cases and expand contact tracing.
The governor, with the aid of the Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota, says the state now has the capacity to test up to 20,000 Minnesotans a day, which he says will help "control the pandemic and reopen Minnesota's society."
At a 2 p.m. press conference, Gov. Walz says this should allow Minnesota to test at a rate higher than anywhere else in the country and the possibly the world.
But he said that this expanded testing will not do its job unless Minnesotans continue to follow social distancing guidelines.
"When Minnesota faces a challenge, we rise up – together,” Governor Walz said. "I’m proud to partner with Minnesota’s innovative health care systems and leading research institutions to pioneer how states can begin to move forward amid COVID-19."
Describing it as a "breakthrough for rapid, widespread testing of COVID-19 in Minnesota," the partnership between the state, Mayo and U of M is designed to ensure everyone in Minnesota with symptoms of the coronavirus can access a test, compared to the current system where it's prioritized for the hospitalized, healthcare workers and those in congregate living settings.
It will be funded by $36 million from the COVID-19 Minnesota Fund, and will see 20,000 molecular (diagnostic) tests and 15,000 serology (antibody) tests available a day.
The Mayo and U of M will create a "central lab" to accommodate expanded testing, and a "virtual command center" that will coordinate with health systems across the state "to monitor daily testing needs and coordinate rapid responses to outbreaks."
Meanwhile, the Minnesota Department of Health, Mayo and U of M will expand its contact tracing in an effort to limit outbreaks by ensuring anyone linked to positive test cases are isolating for the required period.
"The partnership will help to identify and respond to emerging “hotspots” of infection," the announcement said. "They will collect data on prevalence, geographic distribution, and barriers to care for the virus, and they will conduct groundbreaking research on COVID-19 to assure that tests are applied according to the best emerging science."
There will also be "intensive testing" of vulnerable populations, including care home residents, the homeless, healthcare workers, communities of color, American Indian populations, and other critical workers.