As COVID-19 Spreads Across Wisconsin, State Shifts Testing Site Resources

Wisconsin National Guard Will Be Phased Out From Madison, Milwaukee And Redeployed To Other Parts Of State

A man in a face mask, face shield, gown, and gloves handles a COVID-19 test at an outdoor testing facility under a tent
A COVID-19 test technician handles a test Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020, at a pedestrian-friendly testing location at UW-Madison. Angela Major/WPR

Wisconsin intends to shift COVID-19 testing resources, diverting members of the Wisconsin National Guard away from the state’s two largest cities to other parts of the state as new cases of the disease continue to climb.

“We think it’s really important that we have access across the state of Wisconsin to community testing, and so we are currently in very active conversations with counties and regions around the state to make sure we have better coverage of our testing resources,” said state Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm during a media briefing Tuesday.

Officials didn’t say where the National Guard members would be redeployed specifically. They will be gradually phased out and replaced with civilian workers at testing locations in Madison and Milwaukee.

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The National Guard testing mission is scheduled to end Dec. 31 and preparations are underway to train people in communities across the state to manage community testing sites.

Dane County has been doing the bulk of statewide testing at its drive-through Alliant Energy Center location, where it conducts about 12,500 tests a week, according to Doug Voegeli from Public Health Madison & Dane County.

As 40 National Guard members are gradually replaced with civilian testers by Thanksgiving, the times and days when testing is available at the Alliant Energy Center will shift. Instead of being open 56 hours per week, operations will be scaled back to 40 hours, and the location will no longer be open on Mondays.

“What we see a lot of times is that people will come in on Monday to get tested because they were exposed over the weekend, and we need to have a few days after exposure before symptoms start showing up before there’s a viral load (large enough) to be caught in testing,” said Voegeli.

Milwaukee currently has two community testing sites, at the United Migrant Opportunity Services headquarters on the south side at 2701 Chase Ave., and Barack Obama School-Custer Stadium at 4300 W. Fairmount Ave. on the north side.

Milwaukee city officials say they are working on a transition plan.