MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Gov. Tim Walz on Tuesday announced plans for a new COVID-19 saliva testing lab in Minnesota.
The governor says the state has partnered with the nation’s leading distributor of saliva testing to expand and diversify Minnesota’s testing capabilities and slow the spread of COVID-19.
State officials are working to finalize the $14.66 million contract with Vault Health and RUCDR Infinite Biologics. Rutgers’ RUCDR Infinite Biologics holds the country’s first FDA Emergency Use Authorization PCR saliva test for COVID-19 while Vault Health provides logistics and telehealth services necessary to carry out the test.
The funding is provided by the state’s federal CARES Act funding.
“Public-private partnerships are the key to success in our state’s effort to combat COVID-19,” said Walz. “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.
The new saliva lab will be capable of processing as many of 30,000 samples a day. Currently, Minnesota testing capacity hovers between 20,000 to 22,000 tests per day.
At full capacity, it would also create up to 250 jobs at its planned location in Oakdale, Minnesota. State officials expect to have the lab up and running by early October.
“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.”
Officials say Minnesotans will have three ways to access a saliva test: through the states 10 semi-permanent sites, mobile testing events and at-home tests. However, the state has not yet defined the parameters of a mail-order testing program.
“Research on the efficacy of all COVID testing is ongoing,” said Kris Ehresmann with the Minnesota Department of Health. “The recent studies on saliva testing show it to be as effective as the nasal swab testing method. There are a lot of different options on the market, but we believe this saliva test is a particularly sensitive and accurate test, based on the research results so far.”