3 New COVID-19 Test Sites Include Miller Park
City opening new ones as National Guard testing sites will close October 17th.
Milwaukee will soon have three new drive-through COVID-19 testing sites, including a large site at Miller Park.
The changes come as the two long-standing sites, at UMOS and Custer Stadium, will close as Governor Tony Evers redeploys the Wisconsin National Guard to other areas of the state seeing a surge in cases.
“I am immensely grateful to Governor Evers and the National Guard,” said Mayor Tom Barrett in an interview. “I always understood it was going to be a temporary arrangement.” That temporary arrangement has lasted over six months and resulted in over 110,000 samples being taken. Each site can collect approximately 1,000 tests per day.
The sites, which consist of large tents in surface parking lots, will close on October 17th.
“In preparation for that we are going to be opening up on, Monday, October 12th, two new sites,” said Barrett. “Our emphasis will continue to be on making sure that testing is available to the general public on-demand, with a particular emphasis on those individuals that are symptomatic or have come into contact with someone who is positive.”
The Milwaukee Health Department‘s Northwest Health Center, 7630 W. Mill Rd., and Southside Health Center, 1639 S. 23rd St., will each offer drive-through testing targeted at people with symptoms or who have been exposed to someone that tested positive. Each site will also offer flu shots. “They will be staffed by the Milwaukee Health Department with assistance from the Milwaukee Fire Department,” said the mayor, noting that each could collect 400 samples per day.
The sites will be open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and Wednesday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
On October 19th a new central testing site will open in the parking lots at Miller Park. “The capacity of that site will be 1,500 to 2,000 tests per day,” said Barrett, noting that the three sites will provide greater capacity than currently available. The site will be open Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
A temporary warehouse facility, with climate control, will be constructed in a parking lot at Miller Park said Nick Tomaro, public health emergency response planning coordinator for the Milwaukee Health Department. Six testing lanes will be accommodated. A smaller structure will be constructed at the Southside Health Center and the Northside Health Center will use an existing warehouse at the rear of the facility.
“We do not anticipate any property tax dollars going towards this,” said Barrett. The state and city will each use a portion of their federal CARES Act allocation to fund the operation.
What experience should the public expect compared to testing at the existing sites? “That will be very consistent,” said Tomaro. The same test kits from Exact Sciences will be used, and preregistration and test result notification will work the same way.
Milwaukee County’s Office of Emergency Management will deploy a team of paramedics that typically staff large events to support the operations. “When COVID came obviously there wasn’t many special events going on,” said Dr. Ben Weston, director of medical services for the county office.
The paramedics will focus on ensuring safety for everyone at the sites, the quality of the care provided and the efficiency of the operation. “It doesn’t do much good if we swab your nose and say ‘take care’ and ‘goodbye,'” said Weston. “That education component is critical.”
The paramedics come from the county’s community-oriented regional EMS team (CORE) and their work comes in addition to what they do on their full-time job. The city health department will provide support. A parking contractor that already works at Miller Park will also provide logistical support. “Really the staffing for this is going to be a team approach.”
The plan calls for the National Guard members to phase out. An entirely civilian force is expected to take over on November 25th.
Weston said his office is hiring more paramedics, with more information available on the office’s Facebook page. Tomaro said the health department would also be hiring.
Appointments will not be required. Testing is free at each of the sites. Flu shots will not be available at Miller Park.
Weston said three groups of people should look to be tested. “Anybody with symptoms that relate to COVID, number two is anybody with close contact that somebody that tested positive and number three is anyone referred by a health provider,” he said.
The medical doctor said it is important to remember that testing is only part of the strategy to slow the spread of the disease and people that have been exposed should still quarantine for 14 days and watch for symptoms.
Additional testing sites continue to operate in Milwaukee County. A list of testing sites is maintained by the state Department of Health Services.
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