Wisconsin Public Radio

COVID-19 Testing Still Needed, Experts Warn

As cases decline in Wisconsin, testing drops drastically. That's a mistake some warn.

By , Wisconsin Public Radio - Mar 22nd, 2021 12:13 pm

Marquette student Bruce Deal checks in at the walk-in COVID-19 testing site Friday, March 19, 2021, at American Family Field in Milwaukee, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

Anita Williams has been rigorously isolating in her Beloit home since the start of the pandemic. She’s 71 and recently received the COVID-19 vaccination.

But Williams says she’s still concerned people could be spreading the pandemic throughout her community.

She checks the state Department of Health Service’s dashboard often and has noticed the coronavirus testing site near her house hasn’t had many people visiting lately.

“We had this big testing site at Blackhawk Technical College. They were doing a lot of tests every week, and now we’re down to 534 weekly average for the last 10 days,” Williams said. “If you don’t test for it, you’re not going to find it.”

Williams is one of a handful of Wisconsinites who has written to WPR’s WHYsconsin to ask whether the state’s decline in COVID-19 cases is related to less testing.

Wisconsin continues to see a decline in the new number of coronavirus cases and deaths. And the number of people getting vaccinated continues to increase.

In November, the state was averaging more than 6,000 new cases a day. As of March 21, the average daily number of cases for a seven-day period was 399.

But the decrease in new cases has coincided with a drastic decrease in testing. In Milwaukee County, lines that stretched across American Family Field for sometimes two hours are gone. Tests are now completed in minutes.

In November a total of 19,000 people per week were being tested at three sites in Milwaukee County. On March 13, 1,550 people were at those same three sites, according to a Milwaukee County dashboard.

Milwaukee County now does testing at American Family Field just three days a week — on Monday, Wednesday and Friday — to accommodate for the change.

Dr. Nick Tomaro with the City of Milwaukee Health Department said while the case trends are positive, health officials don’t want people to forget that testing is important.

“Even though we’re improving, we have to be conscious that anyone who is experiencing the symptoms, anyone who has had close contact exposure with someone diagnosed, should be tested,” Tomaro said.

The ideal time to be tested is three to five days after exposure, Tomaro said.

“We still believe testing is an incredibly important piece of controlling the virus,” Tomaro said. “We’re trying to decrease transmission to the point where circulation of the virus in the community is minimal to none.”

Traci DeSalvo, acting director of the DHS Bureau of Communicable Disease, said the decrease in testing could have to do with an array of different testing options, like at home test kits. She also implied that as fewer positive cases are reported, people are less inclined to get tested.

In December, Gov. Tony Evers announced people could order at-home testing kits at no cost from the state.

Despite Fewer Cases, COVID-19 Testing Still An Important Piece Of Controlling The Virus was originally published by Wisconsin Public Radio.

More about the Coronavirus Pandemic

Read more about Coronavirus Pandemic here

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us