MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Not everyone with possible symptoms of COVID-19 can get tested for it in Minnesota. For weeks, the Minnesota Department of Health has asked healthcare providers to limit the testing to healthcare workers, hospital patients and people who live in group living facilities, like nursing homes.
In the Allina system, those restrictions mean Allina healthcare facilities are testing between 100 to 150 people per day.
“The reason we’re choosing not to test more right now is in anticipation of a surge we need to make sure we are good stewards of the resources that we have currently because we know they’re limited,” said Heather Dawson, Vice President of Laboratory Services at the Allina Health Laboratory. “So, it’s really important to test those populations that matter in terms of how we can make a difference in terms of tracking exposures and treating the patients we that have who are in our hospitals.”
As of Thursday morning, 1.18 million Americans have been tested. That’s about 0.3% of the population, or every one in 275 people. Compare that to South Korea, which has tested almost 432,000 people. That’s about 0.8% of the South Korea’s population or every one in 120 people.
In Minnesota, 22,394 people have been tested as of Thursday. Thirty-eight percent of those samples have been tested in the public health laboratory. The rest have been tested in other laboratories like Mayo Clinic, University of Minnesota, Hennepin Healthcare and a private company, LabCorp.
Minnesota has tested about one of every 250 Minnesotans. That ratio is higher than more than half the states, but less than New York. There, almost 2,000 people have died from COVID-19 and they’ve tested one in every 88 residents.
“We are aware that vendors are allocating more of their resources to hotspots,” Dawson said.
According to Minnesota health officials, testing supplies are limited. Both the swabs used to test the samples and the reagents, or chemicals, used to conduct the tests are in short supply.
On Wednesday, Minnesota’s Commissioner of Health said Minnesota has put in specific requests, both through the Governor and Congressman Emmer’s office, for more supplies from the U.S. Health and Human Services.
“None of the requested laboratory supplies that we have talked with HHS about have materialized in Minnesota at this point,” said MN Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm.
At the same time, Malcolm said Minnesota hospitals are stepping up to develop their own testing platforms and have been working directly with their suppliers.
According the Dawson, those suppliers are running into problems.
“We have the capability, but we can’t get our hands on the reagents,” she said. She hopes Allina’s laboratory will be able to run its own tests by the end of April.
On Thursday, the FDA gave emergency approval to the first antibody test for COVID-19. On Monday, President Trump introduced a five-minute diagnostic test for COVID-19 from Abbott Labs.
Nationwide, six private laboratories are conducting the majority of the COVID-19 testing in the U.S. The Mayo is currently scaling up.
But, at this point, Minnesota health officials have no timeline on when any Minnesota who wants a COVID-19 test will be able to get one.