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Coronavirus Updates: Top Mayo Clinic Doctor Says His Lab Can Soon Meet Gov's Testing Requirement To Reopen State

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Within one day of Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz requesting 5,000 COVID-19 tests per day before the state can start reopening businesses, a top Mayo Clinic doctor said his team can meet that capacity, and then some.

Dr. William Morice is the chair of the Mayo Clinic's Department of Laboratory Medicine. He says the clinic can produce 8,000 swab tests and 10,000 blood tests within a few weeks of getting the green light from state and public health officials.

"Really we started working on our first diagnostic testing in early February when we were getting signals from China that this was going to be difficult to manage," Morice said.

The swab test checks for a diagnosis, while the blood test checks for antibodies, which would suggest the patient has recovered from coronavirus, perhaps without showing any symptoms.

He said because the clinic's lab serves hospitals around the world, it has the infrastructure built to make the COVID-19 tests at a high volume. The problem with trying to do so sooner was due to a supply shortage. To administer the test, health officials need personal protective equipment, swabs, reagents, and other supplies that have reached overwhelming levels of demand.

Morice has spent the past several weeks working with the clinic's vendors to make sure he can get what he needs.

"Because of our history [and] the amount of testing we do already, we have strong relationships with a lot of these companies," said Dr. Morice, who notes he's been calling certain companies directly. "[We're trying to understand] what their supply issues are, what realistically they can do, and making sure that we are prioritized in some way, so that if we make a commitment to the state and others, that we can really follow through with that commitment."

He says it's unlikely that the Mayo Clinic can meet the demands of every hospital it serves, so his team isn't yet clear on which cities or hospitals would get prioritized, in and beyond Minnesota.

Walz says having more tests would not only help the state return to work sooner but also would help control another outbreak in a new wave of the virus later in the year. He also wanted to see contact tracing expand as well.

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