Minnesota to get new COVID-19 saliva testing lab that will double state's testing capacity

The nation’s leading distributor of COVID-19 saliva testing is planning to establish a new saliva testing lab in Minnesota that will more than double the state’s current test processing capacity, Gov. Tim Walz announced Tuesday. 

State officials are working to finalize the $14.66 million contract with RUCDR Infinite Biologics and Vault Health. The lab is expected to be up and running by early October. 

Walz’s office says the new saliva lab will be capable of processing as many as 30,000 samples a day. Currently, Minnesota’s testing capacity hovers between 20,000 and 22,000 tests per day. The rolling average of COVID-19 tests processed daily in Minnesota labs is just under 14,000 a day. 

Officials say the saliva test is less prone to supply shortages than the nasal swab and is less uncomfortable. It also requires less PPE than the traditional swab for COVID-19 because it is self-collected under the supervision of a health professional. 

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - APRIL 13: A laboratory technician holds test tubes containing saliva swabs during coronavirus (COVID-19) symptom tests at Gemotest laboratory in Moscow, Russia on April 13, 2020. (Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

To collect the saliva sample, an individual spits into a funnel attached to a small test tube until enough salvia is collected. They then close the tube with a plug that releases a preservative into the sample, which keeps it good for up to two weeks without needing refrigeration.

The state will set up 10 semi-permanent sites where any Minnesotans will be able to come to get the saliva test, according to the governor’s office. State and local partners will also be able to offer the test in mobile testing events. 

Minnesotans may also be able to perform the saliva test at home through Vault Health, although the state has not yet defined the parameters of a mail-order testing program.