Mayo expands testing regime; state lacks testing supplies

A Mayo Clinic employee talks to a person at a drive-thru testing site set up in the parking lot of the Mayo Family Clinic Northwest Tuesday, March 17, 2020. The drive-thru testing site was expanded to two lanes. (Andrew Link /

Even as Mayo Clinic prepared to expand its testing for COVID-19 by adding a second screening site, the Minnesota Department of Health said a national shortage of testing kits is forcing the state to tighten its criteria for those getting the test. 

The new guidance to health care providers from MDH said highest priority should be given to hospitalized patients, health care workers and those living in "congregate living settings" such as long-term care. 

The MDH message to Mayo and other health care providers said they should assess whether they can send specimens to a commercial laboratory, and determine their own priorities for testing and assess whether these labs have restrictions. 

On Tuesday, Mayo announced that it was setting up a second testing site for COVID-19 to serve ambulatory patients on the downtown campus. Temporary trailers were being put up in an empty parking lot at the corner of Third Avenue Southwest and Fourth Street Southwest. 

This is in addition to the drive-thru testing location Mayo set up last week in northwest Rochester, outside Mayo Family Clinic Northwest, 4111 U.S. 52 N. Th site appears to have undergone an expansion, from one lane to two.


Mayo was unavailable to comment or provide additional details about the new, downtown site.

Gov. Tim Walz sent a letter to Vice President Mike Pence last week calling for an immediate increase in the number of COVID-19 tests available to Minnesota health care providers. 

MDH officials told hospitals and clinics to limit sending specimens to the MDH to those from infected COVID-19 patients. 

"At this time, MDH can also test ill health care workers and ill persons living in congregate settings," the statement said.

For those unable to be tested, state officials recommended that health care providers tell patients with undiagnosed fever and/or acute respiratory symptoms that they should self-quarantine for seven days after the onset of their illness or for 72 hours after resolution of the fever and improvement of respiratory symptoms, whichever is longer. 

Patients should seek care if their symptoms become severe. They should call ahead to the hospital or clinic when possible. 

The virus that causes COVID-19 is spread primarily by respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It can also spread when people touch contaminated surfaces and then touch their eyes, nose or mouth. 


Drive-thru Testing

Drive-thru Testing

Mayo Clinic employees dressed in protective gear talk to people at a drive-thru tent set up in the parking lot of the Mayo Family Clinic Northwest Tuesday, March 17, 2020. The drive-thru testing site was expanded to two lanes. (Andrew Link /

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