Minnesota has long been a ground-breaker when it comes to health care and medicine, and now the brainpower state may lead the world out of the latest threat to humanity: pandemics.
With a unique public-private partnership announced Wednesday, the University of Minnesota, Mayo Clinic and the major state health care providers will join forces to contain, treat and research COVID-19. The coalition will not only build a treatment superstructure for testing and treatment, but also gather research to create a scientific and epidemiological battle plan to fight this and future outbreaks.
The collaboration is unique for health care institutions that usually compete against one another. “It’s a big deal,” said Minnesota health commissioner Jan Malcolm at the Wednesday announcement. “This is a good day,” said Dr. Jakub Tolar, dean of the University of Minnesota Medical School. “One for the ages.”
The plan was developed by a working group put together by Gov. Tim Walz that included experts and some of the most talented people in Minnesota business, government and health care. Partners will not only do some of the most comprehensive and voluminous testing, but will be involved in disease investigation and developing public health strategies for the future.
Resources of Mayo’s worldwide lab capacity, the U’s scientific capabilities and army of public health students and the health providers’ delivery system will work with the backing of an initial $36 million in state funding.
At full speed and capacity, the state will be able to conduct 20,000 tests a day, 10-times the current rate, according to Walz. Testing sites, including drive-ups, are being developed. A website (https://mn.gov/covid19/for-minnesotans/if-sick) to direct people to testing locations was unveiled Friday. A central lab is expected to eliminate supply chain issues, and the purchasing power of the state and businesses like Ecolab will create a powerful synergy.
When hotspots develop, forces will be able to descend on them with manpower and testing not before possible. Case investigators have gone from 20 to 100, according to Malcolm, who says such a “surge” is needed.
And a corporate health-care infrastructure with organizations like Ecolab, Medtronic and Health Partners will support the effort.
Dr. Michael Osterholm, regents professor, McKnight presidential endowed chair in public health and a veteran of many efforts like this, said the plan was the best response to a virus outbreak he had ever seen.
Said Walz: “This is the state that’s going to lead this nation and world out of this.”
The partnership was underpinned with a civic purpose. Said Dr. Tolar: “We are here to serve Minnesotans.”
As Minnesotans endure the physical and psychological warfare the coronavirus has inflicted upon our loved ones, friends and livelihoods, we can take some confidence that our leaders have unveiled a battle plan that can save us from the terror of the virus now and in the future.