Minnesota Department of Health issues updated guidance on testing for COVID-19

The Minnesota Department of Health issued updated guidance for COVID-19 testing on Tuesday.

The department said the adjustments are due to a national shortage of laboratory testing materials. According to MDH, Gov. Tim Walz sent a letter to Vice President Mike Pence asking for an increase in the number of laboratory tests that are available.

The new criteria will focus on the highest priority cases. That would include health care workers and "those who live in congregate living setting," according to MDH.

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MDH sent a message to health care providers Tuesday that called on hospitals to assess if they can send specimens to commercial labs, and to determine their own priorities for testing.

The new guidance for testing also calls for hospitals to only send tests from hospitalized patients with COVID-19.

Providers are also asked to tell patients with undiagnosed fevers or respiratory issues to self-quarantine for seven days after the onset of the illness. If those symptoms become severe, patients should seek care, according to MDH.

Those who have a known or suspected case but are not "severely ill" are asked to stay at home while they recover. Patients with underlying health issues are asked to contact their doctors to see if they need to take additional steps.

Despite the new limitations announced by MDH, KSTP medical expert, Dr. Archelle Georgiou, said there are plenty of options still available for COVID-19 through private companies.

"The private sector has Quest Laboratories, Lab Core Laboratories and the Mayo Clinic all testing right now," said Georgiou. "They all have the capacity and the ability to test people as well."

Because of the new guidance, M Health Fairview announced it has closed its drive-up testing. Allina Health also announced it would not be performing outpatient tests for COVID-19.