Governor Walz announces new Minnesota COVID-19 Saliva Testing Lab

Covid Test

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WKBT) – Minnesota has partnered with a distributor of saliva testing to create plans for a new lab.

State officials are working to finalize the $14.66 million contract with Vault Health and RUCDR Infinite Biologics. Rutgers’ RUCDR Infinite Biologics holds the country’s first FDA Emergency Use Authorization PCR saliva test for COVID-19 while Vault Health provides logistics and telehealth services necessary to carry out the test. The planned lab will have the ability to more than double the state’s current test processing capacity. The contractors expect to have the lab up and running by early October. The funding is provided by the state’s federal CARES Act funding.

“Public-private partnerships are the key to success in our state’s effort to combat COVID-19,” said Governor Walz. “We’ve come a long way on testing thanks to our work with the Mayo Clinic, the University of Minnesota, and our state’s health systems, but we’re looking to make COVID-19 tests even more accessible. That’s why we’re excited to announce a new, innovative partnership with Vault Health and RUCDR Infinite Biologics that will further expand Minnesota’s testing capacity. This means more options for Minnesotans looking to get tested and more diverse capabilities in terms of our overall strategy should we ever run into supply shortages or other hurdles down the road.”

The new saliva lab would be capable of processing as many as 30,000 samples a day if running three shifts. It could also create up to 250 jobs at its planned location in Oakdale, Minnesota. Currently, the state’s testing capacity is between 20,000 and 22,000 tests per day.

The saliva test is less prone to supply shortages than the nasal swab. It avoids the discomfort of a nasal or oral swab. Given that the saliva test can be done without in-person interactions, there is no risk or virus transmission and no need for personal protective equipment (PPE) when conducted at home. To obtain a saliva sample, a person spits into a funnel attached to a small test tube. Once enough saliva is collected, the tube is closed with a plug, which releases a preservative into the sample. This keeps the sample good for up to 2 weeks without needing refrigeration.

The three methods for test delivery are:

1) At-home testing supervised by a Vault Test Administrator
Residents who are eligible (state program and eligibility still in development) will be able to log onto a state-specific Vault Health website. Once they answer two questions about exposure, one about potential symptoms, the test will be ordered to a home address by Vault MD. UPS delivers the test overnight. The individual will receive instructions in the test kit to join a Zoom waiting room to be identified and have their empty tube serial number verified. They will be guided to spit, seal & preserve the contents, then return the sample to the lab in a prepaid overnight return to the lab. Test results are emailed within 72 hours. View process here:

2) On-site testing, supervised by trained medical personnel
The testing entity orders test kits in bulk and leverages employees, contractors or volunteers with a medical background as “test administrators.” Vault will provide training to these administrators to conduct a “supervised spit” and to collect the samples and return to the laboratory. The main difference in the process flow is that the individual will use a mobile device to scan or manually enter on the website the serial number for the test kit handed to them on-site. Test results are emailed within 48 hours. (Alternatively, kits can be handed out onsite, with ability use the telehealth option and returned via individual overnight UPS shipping.)

3) Minnesota’s semi-permanent in-person testing locations
Vault is available to manage on-site test events at any facility where additional support or a turnkey process is required. Vault will provide an appropriately sized team to administer testing on a specified date and time conducting a specific number of tests. Vault manages large on-site workforces in government, education, factories and fulfillment centers and sports teams in their practice facilities, and works to minimize disruption or long work stoppages.