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Walz announces "breakthrough" on coronavirus testing

Updated: April 22, 2020 10:46 PM

Gov. Tim Walz announced a "breakthrough" in coronavirus testing Wednesday afternoon.

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Walz's office says the state has the capacity to ramp up testing to as many at 20,000 Minnesotans today. It will allow health officials to test all symptomatic people. 

The governor says this means Minnesota will be able to test at a higher rate than any other place in the country or the world. However, he warned "this is not a pass" to end social distancing. 

Gov. Walz held a news conference Wednesday afternoon with leaders from the Mayo Clinic, the University of Minnesota, and other health system leaders.

The Mayo Clinic and U of M will create a central lab in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Health to accommodate expanded testing and coordinate response to outbreaks. 

"I can assure you that what you heard today is the model for what will be a statewide testing program, not only how to do the tests but how to use the tests," Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, said. 

Dr. Jakub Tolar, the dean of the University of Minnesota Medical School, called it a "glorious day." 

"Out of all the globe that has been suffering under this pandemic, there is one piece of it and that is the state of Minnesota that I am most proud of," Dr. Tolar said.

Walz had previously set a goal of increasing the state’s testing capacity to 5,000 per day or 40,000 per week, calling it a necessary condition for reopening the state’s economy. His stay-at-home order currently runs through May 4.

It's not clear how exactly the ramped up testing will impact that executive order, but Gov. Walz said, "Absolutely this is going to play in our decisions."

Increased testing will be funded in part by $36 million from the COVID-19 Minnesota Fund, the governor's office said. 

"This is not a state that's going to just get through COVID-19. This is a state that's going to lead this nation and the world out of this," Gov. Walz said. 

Earlier Wednesday, the state reported that COVID-19 has killed 19 more Minnesotans, marking the largest one-day death toll since the pandemic reached Minnesota.

You can find the latest coronavirus information from the Minnesota Department of Health here. 

Copyright 2020 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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