MN Government Updates 04.22

Walz, Mayo, U of M Announce COVID-19 Testing Breakthrough

  • 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. Standing together at the State’s Emergency Operations Center, they 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Walz Daily Press Briefing

This afternoon, Governor Walz and other officials held a press conference to update the public on state efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic. Today’s press conference was largely focused on the testing breakthrough announcement with the University of Minnesota and Mayo Clinic.

Governor Walz

  • Governor Walz noted that today the state is reporting the highest rate of infections and fatalities due to COVID-19 to date.
  • The governor outlined the testing breakthrough announcement
    • The state will have the capacity to test 20,000 Minnesotans per day.
    • The University of Minnesota and Mayo Clinic will be identifying emerging hotspots in the state before they become critical.
    • This will provide a path to lower hospitalizations, allow for capacity for the most vulnerable, and begin a path to reopening the economy.
    • The initial funding for this initiative came from $36 million allocated by the legislature for the COVID-19 fund.
  • When asked about how increased test capacity will align with lifting the “Stay at Home” order and the closures of schools and businesses, the governor responded, “This is one of those tools for us to come back. This will play into our decision. We did these two stay at home orders to build supply chain and capacities and the second one to build out tools necessary to use lessons learned and open businesses more safely. It will absolutely play into our thinking.”

Commissioner Jan Malcolm, Department of Health

  • The state added another 150 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 – bringing the state total to 2,721.
  • The state has had 19 more deaths due to COVID-19 – bringing the state total to 179.
  • Currently, 240 patients are hospitalized due to COVID-19 with 107 of those in the ICU. The number of ICU patients is down 10 from yesterday.
  • The commissioner stated that tests will be available at the regular source of care, such as primary care clinics, for those who has developed COVID-19 symptoms. Although, it won’t be ready as of today. A website will be ready soon to show Minnesotans where all the testing sites are located.
  • Commissioner Malcolm outlined the goals, strategies, and Phase One of the Governor’s Work Group to Increase Testing, which is co-led by Dr. Michael Osterholm, who is the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research at the University of Minnesota.
    • Goals:
      • Starting with priority patients, ensure PCR testing of all symptomatic Minnesotans
      • Testing (PCR and Serologic) should be done with the fastest possible turnaround
      • Testing (PCR and Serologic) should be conducted strategically
    • Strategies:
      • Rapidly and significantly increasing testing capacity throughout the state
      • Fully utilize available and growing existing capacity in hospital based labs, reference labs, and research labs
      • Resolve supply chain issues
      • Reduce cost barrier
      • Resolve billing issues
    • Phase One Agreement to Implement the Strategy
      • Agreement between major hospital systems on priority goals and the need for a central lab capacity to support and augment capacity
      • Mayo Clinic and the U of M agree to collaborate to create
        • Central lab accommodate the expanded testing
        • Virtual command center in coordination with the health systems to manage the daily flow of testing to assure goals are met
        • Capacity to partner with the state on cutting edge analytics and research to inform testing, treatment, and containment strategies
        • Set clear direction to test all symptomatic Minnesotans
        • Intensive testing of the following
          • Vulnerable populations
          • Staff that serve vulnerable populations and healthcare workers
          • Childcare workers of healthcare workers
        • Partnering with legislature on future phases
        • Following the science
        • Boosting surveillance and case investigation/contact tracing
      • Phase One will last 3-4 weeks at most before moving to a Phase Two, which will focus on maximizing the system the state built.

Amos A. Briggs | Government Relations
100 Washington Avenue S | Suite 2200 | Minneapolis MN  55401

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