Graham Kilmer

COVID-19 Testing Down Significantly

Officials worry about drop in testing here as COVID-19 cases spike across the nation.

By - Jun 16th, 2020 05:06 pm
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. File photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Testing, a critical component in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, is trending down in Milwaukee.

“We have seen a dramatic drop off in the number of people getting tested,” said Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley.

Last week, the two community testing sites on the north and south sides of the City of Milwaukee reported numbers that they administered 3,570 tests. Mayor Tom Barrett said this was “down significantly” from what the city saw in prior weeks.

Elected and public health officials believe the drop off in testing can be attributed to a number of things, including the weather getting warmer and the protests against the killing of George Floyd and police brutality that have been ongoing in Milwaukee for more than two weeks.

Crowley said officials know that many of the people protesting or enjoying the nice weather with friends and family are also starting to return to work. “But we want to remind folks that all of these types of gatherings lead to an increase of exposure and the potential to heighten the community spread.”

This drop in testing is a cause for concern, as local officials are watching other parts of the country and seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases occurring “at alarming rates,” as Crowley put it. Dr. Ben Weston, director of medical services for Milwaukee County, said “the virus is certainly not gone and will likely increase at some time in the future.”

Mayor Tom Barrett once again urged that people feeling “any symptoms whatsoever” go get tested. City of Milwaukee Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik noted that the community testing sites offer testing to asymptomatic individuals. And on top of that, she said the symptom list for potential COVID-19 cases has been expanded to include “many things that you have day to day.”

As the City of Milwaukee moves through phased reopening it continues to track the status of key metrics, like testing, and assigns them values of red, yellow and green, to indicate whether they are meeting the thresholds necessary to move on to the next phase. Once it moves onto a new phase, it waits one incubation period, or 14 days, to monitor those metrics before it moves on

“If there’s any red during that time period then that means we can’t move… Unfortunately early last week we had red for testing, and that obviously is a concern,” Kowalik said. The city is currently in phase three.

And for those that have already been tested, Kowalik said you should not consider yourself in the clear. “It’s not like getting tested once,” she said. “Testing should be ongoing depending on your level of risk.”

Especially if you are an essential worker, Kowalik said. And with the expanded list of symptoms, she said, “even if it’s like a scratchy throat, a sore throat, go get tested.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story reported numbers, announced at a press conference Tuesday, for COVID-19 testing conducted the previous week that were later revealed to be inaccurate. The story has been corrected to include the accurate numbers.

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Categories: Health

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