DHS Secretary: Effort Underway To Expand Coronavirus Test Availability In Wisconsin

Palm Said Some States Are Already Struggling To Keep Up With Testing Demands

A nurse at a drive up coronavirus testing station
A nurse at a drive up coronavirus testing station set up by the University of Washington Medical Center holds a swab used to take a sample from the nose of a person in a car Friday, March 13, 2020, in Seattle. Ted S. Warren/AP Photo

Two private labs in Wisconsin are preparing to begin processing tests for the new coronavirus, according to state Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm.

Palm told Capital City Sunday that private companies will play a critical role in expanding the state’s testing capacity as the virus continues to spread.

RELATED: Live: What To Know March 15 About COVID-19 In Wisconsin

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The State Laboratory of Hygiene and the city of Milwaukee are able to manage the current rate of tests, Palm said.

But that could soon change as the state has expanded its testing guidelines. Initially, a person could only be tested for COVID-19 if they had traveled to a high-risk area or come in direct contact with someone who had been confirmed to have the virus, Palm said.

“Our most recent guidance expanded who can be tested to a place where if you have symptoms, and your doctor thinks those symptoms require a test, that test should be done,” she said.

She added that anyone who suspects they may have the virus should call their primary care physician before visiting a doctor’s office or clinic.

Palm said some states are already struggling to keep up with testing demands. Though this isn’t currently an issue in Wisconsin, the State Lab of Hygiene is already working with the federal government to ensure Wisconsin will have the testing kits it needs as the outbreak continues, Palm said.

“We and all of our colleagues around the country are pressing the federal government hard to help us stay in front of and help us solve this problem,” she said.

Many states have chosen to release the ages of its COVID-19 patients. Palm also discussed why that information hasn’t been shared in Wisconsin.

“Our focus and real interest is in protecting the privacy of the folks who have confirmed cases while providing information to the public that allows us to advance the public health,” she said.

She noted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are tracking the ages of patients nationally. As Wisconsin’s smaller counties begin to see cases, sharing the ages of patients could make them easily identifiable, Palm said.