Mayo Clinic Laboratories has expanded its COVID-19 testing capacity, so its Rochester facility is now working around the clock to conduct up to 3,000 tests a day for Mayo patients and patients at eight Minnesota health care centers.

"Our expanded capacity will expedite caring for patients at this critical time, and hopefully will ease the burden being felt at test processing laboratories in Minnesota and a growing number of geographies," Mayo Clinic Labs President Dr. William Morice, II, said in the announcement.

To ramp up to this level, Mayo Clinic added three "high-throughput" diagnostic processors from Switzerland-based Roche Diagnostics to run Roche's cobas SARS-CoV-2 Test. SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes COVID-19.

This is in addition to the samples being studied using the test recently developed by Mayo Clinic.

"By using two different tests, we are able to significantly increase the number of tests that we perform each day — up to several thousand daily," wrote Mayo Clinic's Dr. Bobbi Pritt, professor of Clinical Microbiology. "This also allows for flexibility in testing options in case the reagents (ingredients) for one test are no longer available due to national shortages."

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Pritt said studies show that the two tests have the same accuracy, so they can be used interchangeably.

The Mayo Clinic-created test is being used primarily for patients at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, and Mayo Clinic Health Systems sites in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa. Because the Roche test can accommodate higher volumes, it is being used primarily for testing specimens sent to the laboratory from other health care sites, according to Pritt.

"By providing testing in two different areas, we are able to draw upon more resources and staffing, and thus perform more testing than what a single area could perform alone. These areas are now working around the clock to provide rapid and accurate test results for as many people as possible," she wrote.

Pritt estimated that by operating around the clock, the labs can currently perform approximately 3,000 tests a day.

"However, we have ordered additional equipment and are planning on bringing up a third test. Combined, these efforts will allow us to test another 1,000 to 2,000 each 24-hour period," she added.

Mayo Clinic Labs, which are not under the clinic's non-profit umbrella, perform more than 25 million tests a year on samples sent from medical centers around the world. It offers more than 3,200 tests and pathology services. Its revenue is used by Mayo Clinic to support research and education.

While the labs are ramping up their COVID-19 testing, Pritt said they are not decreasing their typical medical testing. However, Mayo Clinic has created contingency plans for future possibilities, like staff illnesses affecting its testing capacity.

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