Governor Evers announced today that some Wisconsinites can now be tested for COVID-19 from the comfort of their vehicles, for free. Beginning today, two new community testing sites run by the state National Guard in Milwaukee and Madison will offer tests for anyone with, or without, any symptoms of COVID-19.
The test will not indicate if someone has had COVID-19 in the past, only if they currently have it.
To ensure proper safety measures, Public Health Madison and Dane County officials ask that people stay in their vehicles if they choose to drive up to the testing site. The sites will also offer walk-up testing.
Madison’s community testing site is the Holland Pavilion at the Alliant Energy Center, which is open from 8am until 4pm Monday-Saturday.
Testing is available to all, even those without health insurance, and showing up requires no prior appointment. And Gov. Evers told WORT in a briefing today the location of each site was chosen strategically to provide care in areas where getting tested is hard or where the spread of the virus is especially strong.
“These sites are in addition to the community testing sites that have been operating in the Northwest, Northeast, and Central parts of our state. We’ve continued to see folks coming to these sites to get tested, and that’s great news,” Evers said.
The increase in statewide testing is encouraging because state health officials say there are plenty of tests to go around, but not enough of them are being used. And the tests being given aren’t being taken away from hospitals who need to administer them. Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ryan Westergaard says hospitals have reported to state agencies that they can treat patients with a quality level of care.
“Hospitals are reporting to us that they can provide care in … ‘non-crisis mode.’ They have enough supplies, they have enough staffing, they have enough resources to provide the highest level of care,” Westergaard said.
The Department of Health Services reports that between the fifty-one Wisconsin labs available for testing, the current daily capacity for tests is around fourteen thousand. In the past week, the number of tests conducted has hovered between three and five thousand.
DHS Secretary Designee Andrea Palm says the disparity between available tests and those that have actually been used is all the more reason for Wisconsinites, even those without symptoms, to get tested.
“We are looking to maximize the number of tests we’re doing every day. Our goal is to get to 85,000 tests a week, about 12,000 tests a day. We are well within reach of that goal, but we are not utilizing on a daily basis the number of tests that we have available and so we are going to continue to push and encourage folks who need tests to get them,” Palm said.
Secretary Palm recommends people contact their primary care provider before heading to a community testing site, as tests are readily available within health systems.
State officials say that the percentage of positive tests has not increased, even as the state’s capacity to test has grown.
In a press release today, Madison mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway backed the testing site as essential to getting people tested, going on to say “We also want those who don’t have insurance or who lack access to health care to know they can be tested and we are working to ensure they can receive the support and health care they need.”