ST. PAUL, Minn. (FOX 9) - Governor Tim Walz says he is deeply concerned there is not enough testing available in Minnesota for officials to combat the coronavirus outbreak.
As of Wednesday, the governor says there are 1,700 frozen, untested samples waiting to be tested for COVID-19.
In recent days, state officials, along with other leaders around the country, have said the tests are in short supply. Tuesday, the Minnesota Department of Health said it was narrowing its requirements for testing for the COVID-19 virus due the shortage. Now, health leaders will give high priority to hospitalized patients, ill health care workers, and ill people in congregate living situations, like long-term care facilities.
During a Wednesday briefing, Trump downplayed concerns over a lack of tests, saying they are working to fix a broken system set up by past administrations.
Walz was critical of the testing setup speaking Wednesday, saying the model the government has used -- using two large labs and setting up 14 pod location for the most effective areas -- has left Minnesota with very limited testing abilities.
"I have to tell you this as Governor of Minnesota," explained Walz. "I watch a news conference and they tell us we have testing capacity. I am telling you we don't have testing capacity."
Walz says he hearing the same thing from other governors.
"I'm deeply concerned this centralized testing regime has disrupted the supply chain for those critical elements for our testing and they're not there," Walz added. "We have 25,000 tests for 330 million people. 52 million people in South Korea had 275,000."
However, in a conference call with reporters, Kris Ehresman of the Minnesota Department of Health said that while the lack of testing is a concern, regardless of a test, everyone should focus on preventing the spread of the disease.
"It doesn't matter," she said. "If you're not hospitalized, if you're not a health care worker, you're not in a congregate setting, the laboratory confirmation doesn't matter. What matters is that you and your household is staying out of the public."
In recent days, the Mayo Clinic has developed its own tests and has performed hundreds of its test from patients across the country.
The virus that causes COVID-19 is spread primarily by respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza is spread. It can also spread when people touch surfaces that have been contaminated by an infected person and then touch their eyes, nose or mouth.
The Minnesota Department of Health stressed the importance of all Minnesotans continuing to do those things that can limit the spread of the coronavirus:
Stay home and away from others if you are sick
Cover your coughs and sneezes with your elbow or a tissue
Wash your hands frequently for 20 seconds with soap and water
Avoid touching your face throughout the day
If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as cough or difficulty breathing, call your healthcare provider immediately. For more information from the CDC, click here.
More information about coronavirus can be found on MDH’s Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) website. MDH has set up a COVID-19 public hotline that is open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. The hotline number is 651-201-3920.