COVID-19 breakthrough in Minnesota

Meanwhile, ICU hospitalization numbers decline in Minnesota

Press release on Wednesday afternoon, April 21, 2020

Governor Tim Walz, representatives of the state's health care delivery systems, the Mayo Clinic, and the University of Minnesota (U of M) today announced a breakthrough for rapid, widespread testing of COVID-19 in Minnesota. This has the potential to make Minnesota a leader in the U.S. and the world in terms of COVID-19 testing.

Also today, ICU hospitalization numbers declined by 10 down to 107. A total of 240 Minnesotans are hospitalized today with COVID infections.

Stearns County has reported 2 new cases, bringing their total to 20. Statewide, 660 people have been hospitalized so far, and 1,317 have recovered. Pope and Stevens Counties still have had no positive cases of Covid 19.

Standing together at the State's Emergency Operations Center, members of this Governor Walz COVID work group launched a statewide testing strategy to test all symptomatic people, isolate confirmed cases, and expand public health surveillance tools. 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.

Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcom believes this increased testing capacity will be fully ramped up over the next three to four weeks.

"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."

The partnership announced today will help to assure that every person in the State with symptoms of COVID-19 gets tested. Funded in part by $36 million from the COVID-19 Minnesota Fund, the partnership will establish capacity to deliver 20,000 molecular and 15,000 serology tests per day.

When this goal is achieved is still a work in progress, but the capacity in the system is in place to handle those figures. How quickly that goal is achieved depends on many factors based on the partnerships between the various health care providers and the resources of the state of Minnesota.

"This expanded testing capacity will be transformative to our COVID-19 response, especially for vulnerable populations: individuals living in congregate care settings or experiencing homelessness; communities of color and American Indians; and critical workers," said Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan. "By testing more people, we will build a better picture of how COVID-19 is impacting our state and how to combat it. I am grateful to the extraordinary health care professionals at the University of Minnesota, Mayo Clinic, and all of our health systems for making this partnership possible."

The partnership will improve control of COVID-19 in Minnesota through increased public health surveillance and research. The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and its public health partners will simultaneously expand contact tracing efforts for better control of the infection. The partnership will help to identify and respond to emerging "hotspots" of infection. 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.

"We are pleased to roll out this new testing effort in partnership with the University of Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic," Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm said. "Having this greatly increased testing capacity will improve our understanding of how COVID-19 is spreading in Minnesota, and will provide key data to inform our decisions about how to protect Minnesotans."

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.

"Mayo Clinic has been leading the nation in COVID-19 testing since the pandemic's emergence. As always, Mayo Clinic continues to put Minnesota first," said William Morice, M.D., PhD, President of Mayo Clinic Laboratories. "Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Mayo Clinic has prioritized Minnesota's needs, offering the state unlimited access to Mayo's unmatched testing capabilities and providing assistance and expertise whenever asked. Mayo's commitment continues today as we pledge further support for Minnesota's statewide testing strategy."

"We are committed to our vital public health obligation of aggressively expanding access to COVID-19 testing throughout the state. It will be core to any effort to safely reopen our state" said Jakub Tolar, MD, PhD, Dean of the University of Minnesota Medical School. "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. We are deeply grateful to Governor Walz and Minnesota leaders for supporting this testing strategy."

The expanded testing will include intensive testing of: vulnerable populations, including Minnesotans living in congregate settings and those experiencing homelessness; staff that serve vulnerable populations and health care workers; communities of color and American Indian populations; and workforce for critical infrastructure.

"As an organization that cares for and serves 1.2 million patients and 1.8 million health plan members, HealthPartners applauds Gov. Walz for his leadership in advancing a statewide COVID-19 testing vision," said Andrea Walsh, president and CEO, HealthPartners. "This partnership will help us identify people who have the infection, prevent spread of disease, and protect our doctors, nurses and care teams. Expanding testing and contact tracing is a necessary building block to help us all work toward re-opening Minnesota."

"I strongly support a comprehensive statewide SARS-CoV-2 testing program bringing together both core clinical laboratory and public health surveillance expertise," said Dr. Michael Osterholm, Regents Professor and director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

The U of M is the State's public research university with a presence in every county of the state and is a leader in transformational research into the basic and clinical science of infectious diseases. Mayo Clinic is a leader in developing clinical testing and scaling capacity, and serves as a national reference laboratory and also a leader in clinical and basic infectious disease research.


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