COVID-19 Daily Briefing: State health officials say testing being ramped up, but more still needed

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During the state's daily COVID-19 briefing, health officials said expanded testing is being seen in the state, however, there is still a ways to go.

Minnesota Department of Health Assistant Commissioner Dan Huff said since Gov. Tim Walz announced his plan last week to continue expanding tests, testing has nearly doubled in the state. As of Tuesday, just over 2,400 tests were being done per day.

Huff said there is still a ways to go in regards to testing.

"We're not where we need to be on testing," he said. "We know that this is a ramp-up. It is not something where you flip a light switch and it comes on, but rather we are increasing capacity every day."

According to Huff, with the partnership between Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota being struck, a statewide testing system has been put in place. Huff said this allows health care systems to aid each other if they are in need of supplies. 

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MDH Infectious Disease Division Director Kris Ehresmann also reminded reporters that while testing ramps up, there will be higher rates of confirmed cases.

"Now that we have more testing, we're having a chance to actually measure what's happening in the community," Ehresmann said.

The health officials were asked if expanded testing would allow universal testing inside of congregate care facilities.

MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm replied saying that is a "laudable goal," however, they still need to focus on certain populations until capacity is built up before deciding whether or not to test everyone.

The health officials were also asked about the executive order that President Donald Trump is expected to sign to keep meat processing plants open.

"While we appreciate the importance of the industry … it seems problematic to say the least," Malcolm said.

There have been a number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 inside of meat processing plants in the state. Ehresmann pointed to the large numbers in positive cases in Nobles County, where there is JBS processing plant, and said it is known transmission is occurring in the plant.

"We are very committed to making sure that these essential workers and essential services continue, but we want to make sure we're doing it in a way where employees are safe," she said.