Testing Urged As COVID-19 Hospitalizations Rise In Wisconsin

525 Patients With COVID-19 Hospitalized As Of Tuesday, A Level Not Seen Since February

a man remains in his car as a white swab is inserted into his nose by a man in a blue medical gown and gloves
Brian Andryk of Verona is tested for COVID-19 on Friday, Sept. 25, 2020, at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison. Angela Major/WPR

Testing for COVID-19 has gone up across Wisconsin after steep declines this spring. But some infectious disease doctors say more testing is needed in light of the more contagious delta variant and hospitalizations in the state reaching a level not seen since February.

Anyone who has been potentially exposed to the virus should get tested, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says — that includes people who are fully vaccinated. The agency is also advising everyone, including those vaccinated, to wear a mask in areas of high transmission.

But large community testing and vaccination sites that were operating across the state for much of the pandemic have closed, leaving people to rely on public health departments, doctor’s offices, pharmacies and schools for testing.

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People who have symptoms of COVID-19 like coughing, runny nose, sore throat, fever, or loss of taste or smell, or people who are traveling should get tested for COVID-19, according to current CDC and Wisconsin Department of Health Services guidelines.

“It’s good for a patient with symptoms to know whether its COVID or not, so they know whether to quarantine and let others they might have infected know,” said Dr. Dan Shirley, an infectious disease specialist with UW Health. “The other important thing is just to know how much COVID-19 there is in our state.”

In the past two weeks, the number of COVID-19 tests done across the state have ranged from roughly 12,000 to over 20,000. While that’s an increase from the drop-off from earlier this summer when cases were lower, it’s nowhere near the daily number of tests done at the pandemic’s peak last fall.

“And so it does suggest some level of under testing. I think that’s in part because frankly people have COVID fatigue and don’t want to go out and get tested,” said Dr. Ben Weston, director of Medical Services for the Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management and associate professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

Where To Get Tested For COVID-19

Pharmacy chains like CVS and Walgreens offer COVID-19 testing. Walgreens offers drive through testing for people ages 3 and older, according to its website which says three kinds of tests are available: a rapid diagnostic test which produces results in less than 24 hours; a PCR test which takes longer because it has to be sent to a lab; or an antigen test which can produce results in as little as an hour.

Independent pharmacies around Wisconsin are also offering testing. Hometown Pharmacy offers COVID-19 testing at 11 locations.

In addition, DHS will send a do-it-yourself COVID-19 test kit to your home. There is no cost, and you don’t have to have symptoms to get the saliva-based PCR test which must be witnessed by a licensed health care professional and can be done via ZOOM.

Wisconsin schools will also be offering voluntary testing for students, families, teacher and staff this fall under a program announced by the state health department in June.

The Rock County Public Health Department says several local school districts have been connected to labs through the school testing program. Overall there has been a slight increase in testing locally, according to the department which is also exploring partnerships to increase testing capacity locally.

DHS has a map of where to find testing sites in your area.