Walz 'optimistic' Minnesota can ramp up COVID-19 testing in the short term

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz has not been shy about his goal to increase COVID-19 testing throughout the state and now says he's "optimistic" that the state can "ramp up in the short run."

Walz says instead of doing several hundred tests a day, he hopes to build to the capacity to reach 5,000 tests a day. 

"I would love to go out and test an entire county in western Minnesota and to be able to know," said Walz. "That's the strategy that states and countries that have managed this have done. We simply did not have the capacity in the beginning, but that's no excuse not to get it now."

Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said a team of researchers and doctors are working on creating the strategy on which tests will be "ramped up" and how they will be deployed. She said she hopes to share timeline goals soon.

"We're developing more robust strategy that ramps up testing by smartly using the different types of testing in different capacities and increase that resource," said Malcolm.

Among the tests researchers are working on includes a serology test, which check a person's antibodies to see if they developed an immunity to COVID-19. Walz says once developed, the hope would be to provide tests to health care workers and those who interact with vulnerable populations.

Walz says he has been in contact with health care providers, such as the Mayo Clinic, receiving feedback. He has also been speaking with other governors about testing, saying it's a possiblity Minnesota could form a consortium with other states that want to get involved in increasing the testing capacity.

Having a more widespread COVID-19 testing system in place, he says, will also be helpful in the future while researchers work to develop a vaccine.

"If we have that testing regiment in place and we have that depth ourselves, it will not be as disruptive, nearly as disruptive next time because we will simply test, isolate and keep those people out while we continue to go about our business," said Walz.