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Increasing Our COVID Diagnostic Testing Capacity

July 29, 2020

The PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test is used to determine if you have the virus that causes COVID-19. The University of Minnesota has a capacity to process 6,000 PCR tests per day, and has an average turnaround time between 24-48 hours. This has been made possible due to facilities like the Microbiology Research Facility and U of M Genomics Center, which have processed 27,000 tests since May.

Recently, the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (VDL) also began processing human COVID samples, increasing the University's testing capacity. According to VDL Director Jerry Torrison, DVM, PhD, the lab is CLIA certified to perform tests on COVID-19 PCR tests and is adaptable for high-demand situations because VDL does high-volume testing on various animal disease samples on a daily basis.

At the moment, VDL staff are starting to test 100 to 200 PCR human COVID-19 samples per day as they ramp up to balance with their regular veterinary testing. The VDL is one of many facilities on campus dedicated to COVID-19 testing, and one of 12 accredited veterinary diagnostic labs across the U.S. that are also testing human samples.

Additional expansion in capacity is the movement of PCR labs on campus to the Advanced Diagnostic Research Lab, and hiring and training staff to be able to process tests 24/7.

The University of Minnesota and labs like VDL have been collaborating with the Minnesota Department of Health and health care systems to increase capacity throughout the state.