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The daily coronavirus update: 8 more deaths in Minnesota; state to create new lab to process saliva tests

MDH also said Tuesday there have been 70,707 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota, up 409 from Monday’s count. 

Photo: CDC/Alissa Eckert

MinnPost provides updates on coronavirus in Minnesota Sunday through Friday. The information is published following a press phone call with members of the Walz administration or after the release of daily COVID-19 figures by the Minnesota Department of Health.

Here are the latest updates from August 25, 2020:

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70,707 confirmed cases; 1,779 deaths 

Eight more Minnesotans have died of COVID-19, the Minnesota Department of Health said Tuesday, for a total of 1,779.

Of the people whose deaths were announced Tuesday, three were in their 80s, three were in their 70s and two were in their 60s. Two of the eight deaths announced Tuesday were among residents of long-term care facilities. Of the 1,779 COVID-19 deaths reported in Minnesota, 1,315 have been among residents of long-term care.

The current death toll only includes Minnesotans with lab-confirmed positive COVID-19 tests.

MDH also said Tuesday there have been 70,707 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota. The number of confirmed cases is up 409 from Monday’s count and is based on 8,858 new tests. The seven-day positivity average, which lags by a week, is 4.9 percent. You can find the seven-day positive case average here.

Since the start of the outbreak, 6,238 Minnesotans have been hospitalized and 312 are currently in the hospital, 137 in intensive care. You can find more information about Minnesota’s current ICU usage and capacity here.

Of the 70,707 confirmed positive cases in Minnesota, 63,725 are believed to have recovered.

More information on cases can be found here.

State announces new COVID-19 testing lab

Gov. Tim Walz said Tuesday the state plans to create a new lab in Minnesota to process COVID-19 saliva tests, which can be safer to run and less prone to supply shortages than the nasal swab tests currently used in the state.

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Minnesota officials are finalizing a $14.66 million contract with Vault Health and Rutgers’ RUCDR Infinite Biologics, paid for with money from the state’s portion of the federal CARES Act stimulus package. In a news release, the state said the lab will be operating by early October.

At full capacity, the new lab can process up to 30,000 samples a day. Typically the state averages about 14,000 COVID-19 tests per day.

The state plans to set up 10 semi-permanent testing sites where Minnesotans can get a saliva test, and Minnesota is planning mobile testing sites as well. The saliva sample is self collected and could possibly be done at home and mailed to the lab. In-person testing would still need less personal protective equipment to keep health providers safe, the news release says.

To collect the saliva, a person spits into a funnel that is attached to a small test tube. The tube is closed by a plug, which releases a preservative that keeps a sample good for two weeks without refridgeration.

While there have been some questions about the accuracy of saliva tests compared to the nose swabs, Jan Malcolm, the MDH commissioner, told reporters Tuesday that the test they plan to use has “very high ratings” and was the first of its kind to be granted an emergency use authorization by the federal Food and Drug administration.

The extra testing capacity would be useful as many K-12 schools and colleges prepare to reopen for classes in the fall, Malcolm said, and could allow the state to deploy targeted testing to underserved communities and COVID-19 hot spots to control outbreaks.

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Hotline, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.: 651-201-3920