As the Omicron variant continues to spread throughout the state, city-county officials are advising folks who are traveling for the holidays to get tested beforehand.
The new variant has become the nation’s dominant strain of COVID after less than a month from when it was first detected in the country. On Monday, Public Health Madison Dane County announced that almost 150 people had tested positive for the Omicron variant, a rapid rise compared to just three people last Thursday.
There were over 5,000 confirmed COVID cases across the state yesterday, bringing the state’s total number of positive cases to over 950,000. Additionally, 46 people died from the virus yesterday, bringing the state to a total of 9,862 deaths from the virus.
Here in Dane County yesterday, there were 452 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 2 new reported deaths.
Pharmacies across the Madison area are struggling to keep up with the demand for the rapid at-home COVID tests. Out of the 10 pharmacies WORT called today, only one had at-home tests left in stock.
Federal help may be on the way after the holidays. President Joe Biden announced earlier this week his plan to send 500 million free at-home tests to Americans. The Biden Administration says that they intend to start mailing them next month to those who sign up online.
Public Health Madison and Dane County have also stated that they have increased the hours for COVID tests at their South Madison Office, adding some additional hours on Christmas Eve and New Years Eve, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.
Appointments are required at the city-county clinic on Park Street, which is open tomorrow from 8am to noon but closed on Saturday.
WORT tried to make an appointment to get tested online through the city-county health department. The first available spot was next Tuesday. When we checked ten minutes later, one spot had opened up for Friday morning.
If you are willing to wait until after Christmas to get a COVID test, you can also request an at-home testing kit from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, or DHS. This test is not a rapid test, like other take-home tests, and must be mailed to a lab the day the test is taken. The test must also be taken in the presence of a medical professional, which is done over Zoom. After the test is sent, your results will be emailed to you within three days.
Meanwhile, 61.7 percent of Wisconsinites have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and 80.2 percent of residents in Dane County have received their first shot as well.
Public Health Madison and Dane County say that getting vaccinated remains the best way to protect yourself from the virus. Although it is too late to receive the full benefits of the vaccine by Christmas, getting vaccinated can still offer some protection and is vital to stopping the spread of the Omicron variant.
Photo courtesy: Nate Wegehaupt / WORT News