State expands COVID-19 testing with pop-up, ad-hoc sites

    CDC test kit one open, one in plastic bag
    This is a picture of CDC’s laboratory test kit for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). CDC tests are provided to U.S. state and local public health laboratories, Department of Defense (DOD) laboratories and select international laboratories. (Photo: CDC)

    With more testing capacity than people who have been given tests for COVID-19, state agencies have begun setting up local, pop-up testing sites around Wisconsin.

    Drive-through testing was scheduled for Friday, May 1, in Alma for residents of Buffalo and Pepin counties. The event was organized by the State Emergency Operations Center, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS), Wisconsin Emergency Management and the Wisconsin National Guard.

    The new community testing project announced Friday will target areas of the state with “a known lack of access to testing or [where] additional testing is needed because of high rates of COVID-19,” Gov. Tony Evers’ office said in a statement. 

    Over the last few weeks, DHS officials have told doctors that they should offer testing to any patients reporting COVID-19 or influenza symptoms, and Evers’ Badger Bounce Back plan has set a goal of widely expanded testing, contact tracing and quarantine for people exposed to the virus to stop the spread of the illness. 

    These goals are among the conditions for the state to begin reopening. The current Safer at Home order was extended to run through Memorial Day, although Republicans in the Legislature are challenging it before the Supreme Court.

    Wisconsin has now reached its goal of having the capacity to run 11,000 COVID-19 tests a day, according to DHS. “But capacity is not the same as utilization, so we have some work to do to ensure everyone who needs a test is getting one and to understand the full scope of this disease around Wisconsin,” Evers stated Friday.

    So far, the daily number of new tests reported by DHS has ranged between 2,000 to a little more than 3,000 in the last week. Meanwhile, there continue to be scattered reports of difficulty getting access to tests around the state.

    At the same time, there have been new clusters of infections, such as in Brown County, leading to surges in testing of residents in the communities where they have occurred.

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    “Any Wisconsin resident experiencing COVID-19 symptoms is welcome” at Friday’s testing event in Alma, the governor’s office statement said. Testing was scheduled to run from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. The test location is:

    The Buffalo County Highway Shop
    S1672 WI-37
    Alma, WI 54610

    The announcement lists symptoms of COVID-19:

    • Fever, defined as a measured temperature greater than 100.4°F
    • Subjective fever, for example if a person feels unusually warm to the touch, or reports sensations similar to previous experiences of fever
    • Cough
    • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
    • Sore throat
    • Headache
    • Chills or rigors (repetitive shaking chills)
    • Muscle aches (myalgia)
    • New loss of taste or smell
    Erik Gunn
    Senior Reporter Erik Gunn reports and writes on work and the economy, along with related subjects, for the Wisconsin Examiner. He spent 24 years as a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine, Isthmus, The Progressive, BNA Inc., and other publications, winning awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, beat coverage, business writing, and commentary. An East Coast native, he previously covered labor for The Milwaukee Journal after reporting for newspapers in upstate New York and northern Illinois. He's a graduate of Beloit College (English Comp.) and the Columbia School of Journalism. Off hours he is the Examiner's resident Springsteen and Jackson Browne fanboy and model railroad nerd.