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BREAKING: Walz announces partnership with Mayo Clinic, U of M for rapid, widespread COVID-19 testing

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (KTTC) -- Gov. Tim Walz announced a partnership with the Mayo Clinic, the University of Minnesota and other Minnesota health system leaders to increase COVID-19 testing statewide.

"This is a state that is going to lead the nation and the world out of this," Walz said in a news conference Wednesday.

According to a news release from Walz, "With capacity to ramp up testing to as many as 20,000 Minnesotans per day, this expanded COVID-19 testing will help control the pandemic and reopen Minnesota’s society."

“When Minnesota faces a challenge, we rise up—together,” Walz said in the news release. “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.”

Walz added that testing capacity will play a major factor in how quickly the Minnesota economy can open and in what capacity. He also says that he is looking at the impact of opening businesses is affecting other states. Walz believes it is not the right time to open up businesses, such as movie theaters, just yet.

The private and public partnership will reportedly establish a capacity to deliver 20,000 molecular and 15,000 serology tests per day.

Walz said Mayo Clinic and University of Minnesota will also create a central lab to accommodate the expanded testing, in partnership with MDH. Additionally, they will create "a virtual command center in coordination with the health systems to monitor daily testing needs and coordinate rapid responses to outbreaks."

The partnership also reportedly includes the Minnesota Department of Health and public health partners expanding contact tracing efforts to better control infections, with a goal of identifying 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," the news release said.

The release also noted that 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."

“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 in the news release. “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.”

During a press conference Wednesday, Malcolm talked about funding the joint efforts by withdrawing $36 million from the COVID-19 fund. She said this will allow their initial phase of increased testing capacity to come to fruition.

KTTC

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