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St. Paul, MN (KROC-AM News) - A new lab capable of testing as many as 30,000 saliva samples each day is expected to be operating in Minnesota in early October.

Governor Tim Walz today announced the state is finalizing a $14.6 million contract with two organizations for a project that will more than double the state's COVID-19 testing capacity. Rutger University's RUCDR Infinite Biologics, which hold the FDA's first Emergency Use Authorization for a PCR saliva test to detect the new virus, will perform the testing, while Vault Health is being contracted to provide the logistics and telehealth services needed for the testing program.

State Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm says the contracts will also diversify the state's testing capacity, which is dominated by the Mayo Clinic, which will give the state options in the event of shortages of the materials needed for certain types of lab tests. The funding will come from the federal CARES Act.

“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. 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.”

Malcolm says the added capacity will boost the state's efforts to provide communitywide and targeted testing of populations. She also notes it will give parents the ability to have their school-age children quickly tested for COVID-19 when they develop symptoms that could also be attributed to the common cold or other infections often spread in school settings.

The expanded testing program calls for 10 stations to be set up around the state where the saliva samples will be collected. A home testing option is also in the works.

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