ROCHESTER, Minn. — Monday was a day to remind the state of the progress made.
When Gov. Tim Walz in late April announced a goal of being able to conduct 20,000 COVID-19 tests a day he called it "a moonshot," and with good reason.
Back then, the state struggled to produce 2,000 tests a day.
The entire country was fighting over the same COVID-19 testing materials, reagents that were the subject of global shortages. As a result, the health department was telling people with symptoms of COVID-19 to simply assume they had it, and quarantine themselves.
So when on April 22 the state announced an initiative joining together the state's two largest research medical systems — longtime competitors — and vowed to achieve a capacity to test any Minnesotan, with symptoms or not, it was a bold gambit. Monday, June 29, those parties paused to mark the milestone.
In spite of the state having never yet tested 20,000 people in a single day — the closest it has come is 19,568 on June 16 — Walz stood together leaders from those two institutions to mark a lunar landing of sorts.
"It was incredibly ambitious in that none of the structure had been created yet," Walz said at an afternoon press conference, "and none of the supply chains were functioning correctly. But it was commitment by the University of Minnesota, Mayo Clinic, the other health systems and the state of Minnesota to create our own system, one that was independent of those supply chains."
"I'm here today to announce that we have reached those goals," Walz said. "We have given over half a million tests, it will surpass 600,000 today, and we do have the capacity to test 20,000 Minnesotans on any given day."
Walz cited a relatively low seven-day-average positive case rate 4.4% at the press conference, and compared it favorably to that of Arizona, which has seen 14% positive case rate. Both Walz and commissioner Jan Malcolm reiterated that the state now encourages anyone who believes they may need testing, to seek testing. While individual sites while apply varying standards from day to day, the capacity is now there, and sites which are seeing slow traffic will lower their barriers.
"Asymptomatic people should be tested when they have reason to believe they may have been exposed," Malcolm said.
"This has put us in a position to have an accurate representation of where the virus is at in Minnesota," Walz said, "it's allowed us to strategically go forward where we could test all of our long-term care facilities, and it has given us the ability to start building up the contact tracing to match the testing volume...We're encouraging people, if they need to be tested, to get, there's no barriers to it."
The Minnesota Department of Health also reported 315 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, June 29.
Health officials also reported Monday an additional 10 deaths in the state from the virus. The state reported one death each in Anoka and Renville counties, two deaths in Rice County and six in Hennepin County.
Six of the 10 deaths were among residents of long-term care, and two were the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Faribault, Rice County, one a man in his 40s and another in his 70s. The state has recorded 396 cases among incarcerated people so far.
As of Monday, 1,435 Minnesotans have died of the virus.
The recent rise in cases in Blue Earth and Mower counties subsided on Monday, with just seven and one new cases reported for the two counties, respectively. Stearns County, however posted 28 cases for the day, a higher-than-typical number for its size.
The state health systems conducted 7,522 tests on Sunday, and will likely pass 600,000 total tests early this week.
ICU use for COVID-19 dropped by three to 140, the lowest since early May, and non-ICU hospitalization was down by seven beds to 138.
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Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 hotline: 651-201-3920.
COVID-19 discrimination hotline: 833-454-0148
Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 website: Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) website.