Mayo Clinic develops COVID-19 test for state in desperate need

Gov. Tim Walz is asking for more time and patience as the state works to do more COVID-19 testing. He wants thousands of Minnesotans tested every day in the coming weeks.

"That’s what we asked people to do: stay at home. We will ramp up the hospitals, we will ramp up the ventilators, we will ramp up the alternate care sites. We will figure out how to do testing," said Walz.

Walz wants at least 5,000 tests done each day to determine who’s healthy and who’s sick. He says ramped-up testing will help determine when Minnesota’s economy can start to reopen. And that’s where Mayo Clinic might be able to step in.

"We felt like this was our moral obligation to offer testing to as many people as we can," said Dr. Matthew Binnicker, Mayo Clinic Director of the Clinical Virology Laboratory.

Mayo Clinic first announced the development of a test for coronavirus last month. They’ve come a long way since– this week saying they’ll be able to produce 8,000 diagnostic tests a day and 10,000 tests a day to check for antibodies in patients who’ve already recovered.

"Once we know that, particularly on the healthcare side, you can redeploy health care workers with presumably no fear of them getting infected with the virus," said Dr. Gregory Poland, Mayo Clinic Vaccine Research Group Director.

And that could be a game-changer for Minnesotans.

"It will be so much different because of the capacity that exists," said Kris Ehresmann, Minnesota Department of Health Director of Infections Disease and Epidemiology.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS has reported on the shortage of chemicals called "reagents" needed to finish the diagnostic tests.

Governor wants 5,000 COVID-19 tests a day, but one major issue is getting in the way

But on Wednesday, the state health department says the other test given, which is the antibody test, uses a different reagent which is still available.

As more of those tests are produced, health officials say they’ll likely be given first to health care workers, those in hospitals or long-term care, and to first responders. The goal eventually is to get the tests to everyone who needs it.

"We’re going to have a very science-based strategic plan on when we get ready to move folks back into the work safely," said Walz.

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