What the process for COVID-19 testing looks like

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So far, 21 people in Minnesota have been tested for coronavirus. Thirteen of those tests came back negative. The others are still pending.

5 EYEWITNESS News got a rare look inside the infectious disease lab at the Minnesota Department of Health to see what that testing looks like.

"I would not be surprised within the next day or so if we don’t get our first positive,” said Maureen Sullivan, the emergency preparedness and response unit supervisor.

MDH: 8 more Minnesota coronavirus tests return negative, 8 still pending

State leaders announced testing for coronavirus became available in Minnesota on Monday.

Sullivan said they currently have the ability to test up to 1,200 people with coronavirus kits from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Everything that we work with, we work with in a biosafety cabinet that keeps both the person working on it safe, what they’re working on safe and the environment safe,” Sullivan explained.

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The lab collects a patient’s oral or nasal swab from a hospital or clinic. Lab workers are then able to pull out the virus that specimen may contain and compare it with positive samples of coronavirus from the CDC.

“That whole process takes — from start to finish — about six hours,” Sullivan said.

As for whom to test, the Department of Health said Wednesday it is making decisions on a case-by-case basis. They said health care providers will evaluate the circumstances of each patient, including symptoms, recent travel and contact with persons known to have coronavirus.

Sullivan said it is possible COVID-19 is already circulating in the community and now that the state is able to test for it, they will discover the first case in Minnesota.