Gov. Tim Walz has announced an effort to bring COVID-19 saliva tests to Minnesotans by working with Vault Health and RUCDR Infinite Biologics, a world leader in bioprocessing.
On Tuesday, Gov. Walz announced a plan to more than double the state’s testing capacity with testing kits that are less intrusive than the nasal swab variety. The testing is set to start in early October, and will allow eligible people to test themselves at home.
“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.”
“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,” said the governor.
The saliva tests are the first of their kind to be cleared by the FDA. Created by RUCDR Infinite Biologics, the tests are distributed by Vault Health, who partnered with RUCDR to handle distribution and telehealth aspects in April for the private sector.
The contract with the two companies will cost $14.66 million, funded by Minnesota’s share of the federal CARES Act. The project will enable the state to process an additional 30,000 tests a day, over double the state’s current capacity of 22,000.
Three different ways to get tested will be set up. Ten semi-permanent testing sites will be created, along with mobile testing events, and qualifying Minnesotans will be able to test themselves at home while supervised by a Vault Health administrator.
“While testing alone will not suppress the virus, higher testing volumes are a central part of the state’s strategies to managing the virus,” said Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm.
“We’ve been successful so far at keeping our case numbers from increasing dramatically, as many other states have seen,” she continued. “But we know we have much more demand for testing than available testing today. And with school reopening in coming weeks, we will see an even greater demand for testing.”