Jeramey Jannene

State Will Test All Nursing Home Residents

38% of COVID-19 deaths were in long-term care facilities. 10,000 tests per week planned.

By - May 5th, 2020 02:00 pm
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2019 Novel Coronavirus. Image by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

2019 Novel Coronavirus. Image by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Department of Health Services and Wisconsin National Guard are implementing a plan to use a portion of the state’s unused COVID-19 testing capacity.

Every resident and worker at a long-term care facility in the state will be tested for COVID-19, including nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

“To get this done, we anticipate testing over 10,000 people per week in the month of May,” said Governor Tony Evers during a media briefing Monday. DHS reports a daily testing capacity of 11,347 tests, but the state has never exceeded 3,500 tests in a single day.

“While we have done a great job expanding capacity, we have a significant number of areas of the state that are testing at levels below what we need to understand the extent of the spread,” said DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm.

Residents of the facilities are the most vulnerable to the virus. Over 38 percent of the state’s deaths associated with COVID-19 have been residents of long-term care facilities.

As of April 29th, 93 facilities have reported at least a single case of COVID-19. Without identifying the facility, state data confirms that at least one long-term care facility has 54 confirmed cases of the disease.

A state dashboard reports 59 of the facilities with confirmed cases are in the southeast region consisting of Milwaukee, Waukesha, Ozaukee, Washington, Racine, Kenosha and Walworth counties.

There are 373 nursing homes in Wisconsin and hundreds more assisted living facilities.

The Wisconsin National Guard will assist with the testing. Evers said Monday that 25 units are now mobilized and supporting testing. The units are also working with community health centers on testing as well as providing testing support on hotspot outbreaks including correctional facilities and food processing plants.

The long-term facility testing plan is part of a four-prong strategy to expand testing in Wisconsin. Other plans include expanding testing where substantial community outbreaks are occurring, including Brown County, adding more community testing sites, as was recently done in Milwaukee County, and ensuring everyone who needs a test has access to one, which will include providing more personal protective equipment and other supplies to hospitals and labs across the state.

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