The Architecture of a Pandemic
New Miller Park testing site opens Monday at 11 a.m.
The COVID-19 pandemic is reshaping the way cities look in obvious and subtle ways. Traffic is down, office buildings are mostly empty, markers line sidewalks six feet from one another and white tents have appeared in unlikely places.
The latest change in Milwaukee is the creation of a large COVID-19 testing site at Miller Park. A large white tent can be found in the stadium’s Miller Lot, located at the intersection of S. 44th Ct. and Selig Dr.
The tent, planned to include six lanes, will allow drive-through or walk-up testing through the winter in a climate-controlled facility. Two large generators can be spotted outside the facility.
The creation of the Miller Park site comes at the expense of two others. Testing sites at UMOS, 2701 S. Chase Ave., and Custer Stadium, 4300 W. Fairmont Ave., will both have their last day of operation Saturday, October 17th. The sites have seen over 120,000 samples collected.
The Wisconsin National Guard has staffed both sites, with support from the Milwaukee Health Department, since they opened in May. It will now transition away from Milwaukee in phases to respond to testing needs elsewhere in the state. An entirely civilian force is expected to take over at Miller Park by November 25th.
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, on October 6th.
The paramedics will focus on ensuring safety and the quality of care provided for everyone at the sites, 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.”
Two other city-owned sites are already operating as community testing sites as of Monday.
The health department sites have a capacity of 400 samples per day while the Miller Park site is planned to collect up to 2,000 samples per day.
Mayor Tom Barrett said in an October 6th interview that the costs for all three facilities are being borne by a combination of federal CARES Act funding awarded to the city and state. “We do not anticipate any property tax dollars going towards this,” said Barrett.
As of a Friday data release from the state Department of Health Services, the number of Wisconsin residents with an active COVID-19 case has hit a new high of 34,345, just short of the Milwaukee Brewers average attendance at Miller Park in 2019 (36,090).
As a result of the statewide surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, DHS opened an alternative care facility in the exposition center at Wisconsin State Fair Park.
Milwaukeeans needing transportation or more information on testing should call 211 or visit the DHS website.
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