4-22 COVID-19 Update: MN Governor, U of M, Mayo Clinic Make Announcement on COVID-19 Testing
COVID-19 Update MN Governor Walz, U of M, Mayo Clinic to Make Announcement on increased Testing in Minnesota
MN Governor Tim Walz Update:
- Reports 19 new deaths in Minnesota Wednesday, new daily high in state due to COVID-19
- “This has been Minnesota’s deadliest day of COVID-19 deaths. We extend our sympathies.”
- Announces testing breakthrough with University of Minnesota and Mayo Clinic
- New statewide testing strategy aims to test all symptomatic people, isolate confirmed cases, and expand contact tracing tools
- Provides rapid, widespread testing of COVID-19 in Minnesota (this is initial testing, work also continues on serology testing to determine people’s immunity to COVID-19)
- Governor wants to increase capacity in Minnesota to as many as 5,000 diagnostic tests per day
- State’s capacity is to test 20,000 people per day in Minnesota. His initial goal was 40,000 people per day. This will allow to test a higher rate of people compared to basically anywhere in country through partnership with U of M and Mayo Clinic.
Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm:
- Global cases: 2.6 million, 178,000 deaths; U.S.: 825,000 cases, 45,000 deaths.
- 2,721 confirmed cases in Minnesota, 179 total deaths in Minnesota (18 from Hennepin County included in 19 new deaths reported today) Age range mostly in 80s and 90s, one person in 50s had underlying health condition.
- “This is a sad day, but also a hopeful day,” said Malcolm.
- Not having lab capacity and reagents was problem to get out testing sooner, then collecting supplies to make it happen.
- Testing needs to be done “strategically” to meet public health goals. This will include resolving supply-chain issues to get tests where needed most.
- Funding put together “in incredibly short time,” thanked Minnesota Department of Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans.
- State will “create virtual command center” to determine best testing strategies and containment strategies. “This is a big deal,” says Malcolm, on what’s getting rolled out today.
- Testing volumes will be ramped up rapidly over next two weeks. “I couldn’t be prouder of our state’s collective approach.”
Dr. Jakub Tolar, Dean of the University of Minnesota Medical School and Vice President for Clinical Affairs:
- “This is Earth Day.” But, “This is one for the ages,” said Tolar.
- Virus looks like “chew toy of your dog,” noting its DNA shape.
- Noted previous supply-chain logistics for testing
- The beauty of testing is not all dependent on supply chain. “We own our future,” he said on Minnesota’s testing strategy.
- The novel coronavirus, SARS-COV-2, is different from other coronaviruses. [Note: COVID-19 refers to disease, not actual virus]
Dr. William Morice II, President of Mayo Clinic Laboratories:
- Conducted 128,000 molecular tests already for COVID-19 at Mayo Clinic, said Dr. William Morice II. “I’m proud of this collaborative effort.”
- Job number one is for people to feel safe. “Without knowledge, there’s only fear,” said Dr. Morice II.
Andrea Walsh, President and Chief Executive Officer for HealthPartners:
- “I applaud your leadership, MN Governor.”
- A negative test helps to know where to use PPE (personal protective equipment), said Walsh. This will help resolve equipment issue for frontline workers.
Dr. Michael Osterholm, Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota:
- “We will be able to do everything we possibly can.”
- However, “we are still in the first innings of this game.”
- “Testing is critical. It’s going to be done. It’s going to be done right.”
- Reiterated that testing will be done here in Minnesota better than anywhere in the country.
- Question on timeline for anyone getting tested. Answer: Walz: I want on our dashboard the numbers to be seen, referring to Mn.Gov/covid19
- “We have had underutilized capacity,” said Malcolm. Today, there’s a capacity to do 8,000 tests a day. Goal is to build up to 20,000 tests per in next couple of weeks. “We’re sending out a message” to stand behind our health systems.
- Goal is test every symptomatic person.
- Plan will include drive-through testing, said CEO Andrea Walsh of HealthPartners. Goal is to test every symptomatic person in Minnesota.
- “Speed is an essential ingredient to success,” said Dr. Tolar.
- Question: what will testing look like? Answer: “We have to make it easy for people to do right thing,” Dr. Tolar. Expects 24-hour turnaround. Some people will need to be tested more than once.
- MDH’s Malcolm: Working with Sanford Health to ramp up testing in Nobles County, where JBS meat processing plant worker outbreak occurred.
- Hennepin Healthcare has offered to help with hot spot work in Hennepin County
- How accurate are tests? Dr. Tolar with U of M: antibody testing 87% accurate initially, but refined to now 100% accuracy. Biggest issue is how to collect specimen (that could cause variance). Collection is key. This is for serology testing, as well as initial rapid testing
- Dr. Osterholm: “This is the wild, wild, west for testing out there,” referring to nationwide testing. “We have seen tremendous differences in these tests.”
- One of the things were working on is how to apply the test. “It’s one thing to test,” but it’s another to understand the test and interpret the data, said Dr. Osterholm.
- Question: can people get tested locally? Malcolm: “You can get tested at your primary source of care.” You can get tested at your regular clinic if you have symptoms. Call ahead, as emphasized previously.
- HealthPartners CEO Andrea Walsh: We are in the process of figuring out how to operationalize testing. “Will it be there tomorrow: No.” In a couple weeks, very likely.
- From a safety standpoint, a triage system will be set up like at many hospitals already.
- Question: could federal government swoop in and take over what Minnesota is doing? Answer: “We’re not worried about it,” said Walz. A lot of folks will try to model this, he said.
- Question: How increased testing could impact reopening schools, businesses. Answer: Walz: “I think it’s a mistake on what some states are doing,” singling out Texas. Testing is a piece of it. No definitive answer. There will be “a lot of lessons learned,” and “will play into our thinking.” Minnesota will learn a lot from Georgia, which doesn’t have testing rolled out yet.
- Updates on meat-packing plants? What about resorts up North? Answers: Walz: We’ll have more guidance in next day or so on guidance for resorts, etc.
- On meat-packing plants: Walz: Worthington [JBL plant], massive testing will occur, such as at ice arena.
- Malcolm, testing is going a little slower due to language barriers, referring to meat-packing plants.
- Final thought, Walz to Minnesota: “We told you about a moon shot. The ship is on the launchpad today.”