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Calls for more coronavirus testing as Wisconsin sees ‘significant community spread’

Wisconsin has bolstered its testing capacity during the pandemic, but not everyone is using it and challenges loom

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Public Health Madison and Dane County employees and members of the Wisconsin National Guard operate a drive-through COVID-19 testing facility at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, Wis., on May 13, 2020. Here, Wisconsin National Guard members perform the tests, asking people to blow their noses before administering nasal swabs. Wisconsin has dramatically expanded its testing capacity during the pandemic, but experts say too few Wisconsinites are showing up — potentially thwarting efforts to neutralize the virus.

In the earliest days of the coronavirus pandemic, a shortage of testing supplies and staff at laboratories left Wisconsin and other states struggling to quickly identify infections and isolate contagious people. Four months after Gov. Tony Evers declared the outbreak a public health emergency, the state has dramatically expanded its testing capacity. But experts say too few Wisconsinites are showing up — potentially thwarting efforts to neutralize a virus that killed at least 831 people in the state as of Thursday. 

Wisconsin has 83 labs that can perform more than 24,000 total tests each day, according to data that public, private and commercial labs voluntarily report to the state Department of Health Services. That’s about 7-times the capacity reported on April 1. Twenty-four additional labs are “planning to test.”

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Public Health Madison and Dane County employees and Wisconsin National Guard members operate a drive-through COVID-19 testing facility at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, Wis., on May 13, 2020. DHS officials urge testing for people who have COVID-19 symptoms — including a cough, shortness of breath, fever and chills — or suspect they were exposed to the virus.

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Public Health Madison and Dane County employees and Wisconsin National Guard members operate a drive-through COVID-19 testing facility at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, Wis., on May 13, 2020. Here, members of the Wisconsin National Guard disinfect their personal protective equipment after a shift. Four months into the pandemic, Wisconsin is not using its full reported testing capacity.

(Copyright © 2020 APG Media)

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