Jeramey Jannene

Milwaukee Opening New Northside Community Testing Site

Site will be on Custer High School campus, replaces Midtown Center.

By - May 31st, 2020 02:06 am
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The Wisconsin National Guard and Milwaukee Health Department staff a COVID-19 testing site at Midtown Center. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The Wisconsin National Guard and Milwaukee Health Department staff a COVID-19 testing site at Midtown Center. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Milwaukee will open a new community COVID-19 testing site Monday at the former Custer High School.

The site will replace one previously at Midtown Center that was put on “pause” last week.

Mayor Tom Barrett announced the news during a Saturday morning press conference in response to an individual that repeatedly yelled at him and forced Milwaukee County Sheriff Earnell Lucas to temporarily abandon his remarks.

“Why’d you shut it down Tom Barrett?” shouted the unidentified individual.

“The concern was that the testing results were not coming back and we were getting literally hundreds of calls to City Hall for people saying ‘we took the test ten days ago we haven’t got the test back’,” said Barrett. “We felt it was unfair for people to take the test and not get the results.”

“It was not a stop, the word that we used was ‘pause’,” he said, as the individual continued to yell. “This will make you feel better.”

“For everybody here, there will be testing starting Monday morning at Custer Obama high school,” said Barrett. “Just so everybody knows, it’s starting Monday morning because we have gotten the backlog taken care of.”

It’s the first time officials have attributed the pause to a testing backlog, but not the first time the backlog has been acknowledged. County health officials referenced it during a press briefing Thursday and Milwaukee officials have said it is impacting contact tracing. The tests are from Madison-based Exact Sciences.

“The Midtown site will be put on pause next week as we evaluate the need for testing and next steps,” said Barrett on Friday, May 22nd.

Milwaukee Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik said during multiple press briefings last week that the city was exploring its options for a new location on the north side.

Both Barrett and Kowalik have advocated for more testing, with Kowalik noting that the city and state need to find long-term solutions to scaling up testing.

The health commissioner said the Midtown Center couldn’t continue to operate because there couldn’t be two testing sites at the same location and an Advocate Aurora Health Care clinic in the complex was providing testing.

The school, part of Milwaukee Public Schools, is now known as the Barack Obama School of Career and Technical Education. MPS continues to refer to the N. Sherman Blvd. complex as the “Custer Campus.”

The free community testing sites are operated by the Wisconsin National Guard and available to anyone arriving by motor vehicle or on foot. Unlike other testing sites, individuals do not need to show symptoms of the disease or schedule an appointment.

A southside community testing site at UMOS, 2701 S. Chase Ave., continues to operate Monday through Saturday, 11:00 a.m. through 8 p.m. (new hours included below) The southside site, when both were operating, recorded a higher volume of test specimens collected.

The city, in partnership with the county and state, opened the sites on May 11th and over 20,000 people have been tested at the two combined.

Individuals seeking a COVID-19 test that show symptoms of the disease (fever, cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, sore throat, headache, chills, muscle aches, loss of taste or smell) should call 211 or their health care provider to schedule a test.

UPDATE: In a Sunday morning press release, the Milwaukee Health Department announced that both sites would operate from Monday-Thursday, 11:00 a.m. through 7 p.m. and from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Both sites will be closed on Sundays.

The Custer site will be in the Custer Stadium parking lot across from the school, 4300 W. Fairmount Ave.

Midtown Center Site Photos – May 11th

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