ST PAUL, Minn. — Gov. Tim Walz announced that Minnesota has partnered with the nation's largest distributor of saliva testing for COVID-19 to create a new lab in Minnesota.
Officials are finalizing the $14.66 million contract with Vault Health and RUCDR Infinite Biologics.
“Public-private partnerships are the key to success in our state’s effort to combat COVID-19,” Governor Walz said in a statement. “We’ve come a long way on testing thanks to our work with the Mayo Clinic, the University of Minnesota, and our state’s health systems, but we’re looking to make COVID-19 tests even more accessible. That’s why we’re excited to announce a new, innovative partnership with Vault Health and RUCDR Infinite Biologics that will further expand Minnesota’s testing capacity. This means more options for Minnesotans looking to get tested, and more diverse capabilities in terms of our overall strategy should we ever run into supply shortages or other hurdles down the road.”
The new lab will be able to process as many as 30,000 samples per day if running in three shifts.
At full capacity, the lab would create 250 jobs at its currently planned location in Oakdale.
The state's current testing capacity is at around 20,000 to 22,000 tests per day.
“Minnesota continues to be a leader in responding to this pandemic and planning ahead for the people of our state,” said Lt. Governor Flanagan. “This partnership will help eliminate barriers to testing, allowing us to provide saliva testing with a quick and reliable turnaround of results.”
There will potentially be three ways to access the saliva tests:
- The state will set up 10 semi-permanent sites where any Minnesotan can access the test.
- The state and other partners will offer testing through mobile testing events.
- Vault Health provides logistics and telehealth services to perform the saliva test at home, but the state has yet to define the parameters of mail-order testing.
The saliva test can be done without in-person interactions, which means there is no risk of transmission or need for personal protective equipment.
To obtain a sample, a person spits into a funnel attached to a small test tube and once enough saliva is in the tube, it is closed with a plug, which releases a preservative into the sample, making it last for up to two weeks, without refrigeration.
Infectious Disease Division Director Kris Ehresmann said that the bottom line is that the saliva test can be used with confidence, doesn't require PPE and is more comfortable. Ehresmann added that it does take a good amount of saliva but that it is "a good solid test, and we feel good about using it."