MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – State officials say they plan to expand testing options in Minnesota as demand hits record highs amid the spread of the infectious variant of Omicron.
Minnesotans looking for testing at state testing sites in the last two weeks of the holiday season faced long lines. Pharmacies look like deserts for COVID testing, with some even displaying signs telling customers they’re out of stock.
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For Jennifer Weingarth of Vadnais Heights, she drove 100 miles in her car around the Twin Cities metro trying to find a quick home COVID-19 test for her daughter who was showing symptoms. She says she has scoured the internet for advice on where to go.
“People like to post like ‘There are some in Woodbury right now,’ so okay I’m like hopping in my car and driving all the way to Woodbury, please do some testing,” Weingarth said. . “Looks like it should be easier.”
In what looks like another roadblock, some Minnesotans received a message that “all available test kits have been shipped for today” when they tried to order a free home test from Vault Health, the Minnesota Department of Health’s partner for testing.
Jason Feldman, CEO of Vault Health, said he is setting a cap at 6,000 tests per day in an attempt not to overwhelm shipping providers and ensure that the tests are used.
For the New Years weekend, the cap was 1,500 tests per day, a spokesperson later noted, because UPS was not sending that day and the company wanted to avoid having a backlog of tests. to ship today.
“We’re making sure that for the five and a half million people of the state of Minnesota, there are enough tests available going on, and the caps are used to balance out the number of tests per day that could be racked up,” he said in an interview.
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The cap is only for the home testing program. When the limit is reached, Minnesotans can still purchase a test for $ 90.
“We have really record traffic,” Feldman said of people visiting the state’s community test sites, where Minnesota residents take saliva PCR lab tests. “We haven’t seen that kind of traffic since last year around this time, and we’re obviously trying to keep up with the demand.”
In a statement, a spokesperson for the Minnesota Department of Health said vacation closures and limited hours at state testing sites are helping to lengthen wait times for Minnesotans seeking to get tested.
“We are seeing unprecedented demand for testing in Minnesota,” he said. “We are evaluating our test network and plan to expand testing capacity and announce more options for the Minnesotans this week.”
Vault Health says there has always been a cap for home testing, but hitting it hasn’t been a problem. The company expects the cap to increase, but has not specified when.
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Governor Tim Walz announced last week that he would use $ 2.5 million in federal COVID relief funds that the state is authorized to spend on