Jeramey Jannene

Free Testing Sites Open to Large Crowds

Lines nearly a mile long at both sites as individuals wait to be tested for COVID-19.

By - May 11th, 2020 01:11 pm
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Wisconsin National Guard individuals man a COVID-19 testing facility in Bay View. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Wisconsin National Guard individuals man a COVID-19 testing facility in Bay View. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Vehicles were already lined up before 8:00 a.m. when two new COVID-19 testing sites opened Monday morning. And by 10 a.m. both sites had lines nearly one-mile long and numbering hundreds of cars.

For the first time in Milwaukee, individuals can be tested at no-cost without an appointment or exhibiting any symptoms of the disease.

The south-side site is located at the United Migrant Opportunity Services (UMOS) headquarters at 2701 S. Chase Ave. A northside site is located in the Midtown Center shopping complex at 5760 W. Capitol Dr. Both sites are outdoors and accept people arriving in a vehicle or walking up.

As of Monday morning, at each site a line of cars snaked through the parking lot and onto nearby streets with three Wisconsin National Guard teams operating specimen collection stations. The Midtown Center site, served by multiple transit routes and in a more walkable location, had one of its collection teams serving a line of pedestrians.

The sites are staffed by the National Guard and representatives of the Milwaukee Health Department, with the guard members donning reusable protective suits described as “space type” by Mayor Tom Barrett on Sunday afternoon. Guard Captain Joseph Trovato said the suits are already used in training by the citizen-soldiers and assures they won’t be depleting supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE).

“For the whole testing process, once they get into the site, the whole process should take only a few minutes,” said Trovato on Sunday, and that appeared to be true, but only once individuals got to the front of the line. Samples are collected using a non-invasive nasal swab. The tests being used are from Madison-based Exact Sciences and will be processed offsite.

The sites are open from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., seven days a week. Individuals do not need to be a Milwaukee resident to be tested.

Individuals do not need to symptomatic for COVID-19 to be tested, but officials are hoping anyone with symptoms comes to get tested. Symptoms may include fever, cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, sore throat, headache, chills, muscle aches, loss of taste or smell

Results are not immediately available. “The goal is to have the results within three days,” said the mayor. The health department will follow up with individuals and contact tracers will follow up with those that test positive.

Each site was expected to have the capacity to collect 500 specimens per day. Milwaukee County has a goal of testing 2,000 people per day across all testing sites, but the daily testing total has trended downward from a high of 828 on April 28th.

“The more we can ramp up the testing, the more we believe we can quickly get our life back to normal,” said Barrett.

Free testing, with an appointment, is available from 17 community health centers across the city. Individuals can call 211 to be collected to the nearest center.

UMOS Site Photos

Midtown Center Site Photos

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