Jeramey Jannene

National Guard Tests 1,919 at City Sites

'Phenomenal' response to two COVID-19 test sites yesterday, more guard members had to be added.

By - May 12th, 2020 05:26 pm
Wisconsin National Guard assist individuals in performing COVID-19 specimen collections at a drive-thru testing site. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Wisconsin National Guard assist individuals in performing COVID-19 specimen collections at a drive-thru testing site. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The Wisconsin National Guard was busy on Monday.

Across the state, the guard did some 4,500 tests, collecting that number of specimens at COVID-19 testing sites as part of its administration of community and targeted testing sites. In Milwaukee, 1,919 samples were collected at the new sites, exceeding the 1,000 samples officials originally estimated the citizen-soldiers would collect.

In partnership with the city and county, drive-thru testing sites were opened at 2701 S. Chase Ave. at UMOS‘ headquarters and 5760 W. Capitol Dr. at Midtown Center. The free tests are available to any Wisconsin resident, with no need to exhibit symptoms of the disease or make an appointment. Individuals can walk or drive up to the sites.

“The reaction to the new sites at UMOS and Midtown has been phenomenal,” said Mayor Tom Barrett in a press briefing Tuesday afternoon. The UMOS site had 954 samples collected, with 964 collected at Midtown Center. Barrett said as of 2 p.m. Tuesday over 600 samples had been collected at each site. “I would not be surprised if by the time we get to closing time tonight that the numbers are equal, if not higher.”

Wisconsin National Guard Major General Paul Knapp said the sites were reconfigured to handle the surge in demand. Individuals at both sites, where lines reached nearly a mile long, reported waiting over three hours to get a test. The guard has activated 25 teams to work across the state on COVID-19 testing.

“We were ready for that large influx of demand,” said Knapp. “We had a backup unit ready to surge onto the scene and we ended up doing that shortly after lunch yesterday.”

Three teams man the southside site and four are working at Midtown Center. Three lanes had been reconfigured to eight at the UMOS site by Tuesday morning. “Really it’s a matter of adding teams and adding additional lanes to ramp up throughput,” said Knapp.

The Midtown Center site is still in the shopping complex, but the entrance has been relocated to 5825 W. Hope Ave. to accommodate the line of cars that nearly wrapped around the full block Monday.

The two testing sites augment the over 17 testing sites already operating in Milwaukee County. But the other sites are available only to individuals experiencing symptoms on an appointment-basis. Symptoms may include fever, cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, sore throat, headache, chills, muscle aches, loss of taste or smell. People with symptoms should call 211 to schedule a test at a community health center or contact their physician.

“Testing continues to be critical to this community to get the data we need to understand this disease,” said Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley.

The two drive-up sites will now be closed on Sunday. “We have to give these people a break. They are humans,” said Barrett. The sites are operational from at 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Will they reopen on Monday, May 18th? Barrett said the guard has said they will support the effort as long as there is demand. “Based on the first two days, it’s likely they will be there on Monday, but that’s not an announcement,” he said.

The tests provided at the site are self-administered nasal swab viral tests, designed to test if an individual currently has the disease, not if the person previously had it. From Madison-based Exact Sciences, the tests are transferred to labs for processing.

There is currently not widespread antibody testing available. “On a national level there are nearly 100 antibody tests, some are decent, some are terrible,” said Dr. Ben Weston, head of medical services for Milwaukee County. “There is a place for these tests in the future.” Weston said the viral tests currently in use are valuable to help understand the extent of the outbreak.

But a negative test doesn’t mean someone is disease-free for the duration of the outbreak. “I would caution people not to take that negative test and think that test gives them a free bill of health,” said Greenfield Public Health Officer Darren Rausch. He said someone testing negative could still be incubating the disease or contract it in the future. “We have to be very careful about how we interpret those results.”

UMOS Site Photos – Tuesday

UMOS Site Photos – Monday

Midtown Center Site Photos – Monday

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