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Minnesota Legislature

Health officials update lawmakers on wide-ranging pandemic response

A drive-up COVID-19 testing site in Minneapolis. Department of Health officials on Wednesday called the agency's pandemic response its greatest ever endeavor. House Photography file photo

Nearly a year ago, on Jan. 29, 2020, the Department of Health set up its “Incident Command” to begin coordinating a statewide response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the 11 intervening months, more than 400,000 confirmed positive cases have been identified in the state and responding to the pandemic has proven to be the department’s largest endeavor ever, Deputy Commissioner Margaret Kelly told the House Health Finance and Policy Committee Wednesday.

The effort has required resources and coordination from across all state agencies, and all branches and levels of government, she said.

House Health Finance and Policy Committee

The state’s financial response has prioritized using available federal funds – most notably $273.98 million from the federal government’s coronavirus relief bill – to make sure the state takes full advantage of the available resources, she said.

Additional federal funds – approved in December – will not replenish this pool, but are still expected to provide some funding to support testing and vaccination in the state, said Joshua Bunker, the department’s chief financial officer.

Detailed reports from the department – including a breakdown of grants funded by the state to ensure hospitals would be able to respond to the pandemic in a timely manner – are expected this Friday, said Kelly and Rep. Tina Liebling (DFL-Rochester), the committee chair.

“It is important, I think … just to have an appreciation of the complexity of all this,” Liebling said.


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