We take-off this last week of April with another clear mission on behalf of Minnesota: to rally the energy and resources needed to expand testing capacity for the state.
Right now, our state leaders - and those of other states in this nation - recognize that without a broad based testing capacity to determine who now has and who has had the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, any initiatives to reopen our economy come with unknowable and significant risks.
That is why the State’s investment in the work of our diagnostic and antibody testing labs is so important. Working with Mayo and health systems statewide, we are deeply engaged in the work to stand up a testing command center that will provide the information we need to move through this pandemic with reduced risk for Minnesotans.
I realize that many of you understand this well, but it’s an important point to make - widespread testing will not automatically lead to a reopened state or a full return to what we knew as normal.
Making tests available broadly will give us the data needed to make decisions about the relative risk of reopening certain parts of our economy.
For example, as we ramp up testing capacity, we may learn that very little of our population in Minnesota has been exposed to the coronavirus. That means there are few of us with antibodies to this novel virus. That would mean careful consideration of safety before opening any businesses or services.
The most important resource that our state’s Stay At Home order has provided is time - time to prepare. By reducing exposure, our Governor and health department have flattened the curve and given health systems time to prepare hospitals and beds to care for those with critical care needs.
Time has given our scientists time to do trials with promising treatments to determine safety and efficacy.
And time has produced innovative solutions to supply shortages, coming from the minds of University graduate students and others.
We have been tasked with an important mission on behalf of our state, and I’m confident my colleagues at this University can do this work to move us forward through this pandemic.
Jakub Tolar, MD, PhD
Campus Public Health Officer (CPHO)