Free coronavirus testing coming to 8 sites in western Wisconsin
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Free coronavirus testing coming to 8 sites in western Wisconsin

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. — Free coronavirus testing will be available in the next two weeks at eight sites in northern and western Wisconsin, as the Wisconsin National Guard hosts brief testing blitzes across the state.

People who have COVID-19 symptoms, even mild ones, are encouraged to get tested, local health officials said Monday.

The temporary bump in testing comes as Gov. Tony Evers announced Monday the state will give a free coronavirus test to every resident and worker in all 373 Wisconsin nursing homes, The Associated Press reported.

The Eau Claire free drive-thru testing site will be hosted at the Prevea Health testing site, 617 W. Clairemont Ave., from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 10 and from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. May 11. About 200 tests will be available each day, and testing is also open to people without health insurance or an established health provider.

People with symptoms of COVID-19, including mild symptoms, are encouraged to participate, said Lieske Giese, director of the Eau Claire City-County Health Department.

Possible symptoms of the virus are fever (a measured temperature above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit), cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle aches, headaches, sore throats or a new loss of taste or smell, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Any Wisconsin resident with symptoms of COVID-19 are welcome at any of the testing sites.

Upcoming testing sites are:

May 5: Drive-thru testing for Burnett and Polk counties and St. Croix Tribe at the Burnett County Highway Shop, 8150 Highway 70, Siren, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

May 6: Drive-thru testing for Douglas and Washburn counties at the Solon Springs Community Center, 11523 Business U.S. 53, Solon Springs, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

May 7: Drive-thru testing for the Bad River Tribe and Ashland County at Lake Superior Elementary School, 1101 Binsfield Road, Ashland, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

May 8: Drive-thru testing for Pierce and St. Croix counties at Western WI Health, 1100 Bergslien St., Baldwin, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

May 9: Drive-thru testing for Pierce and St. Croix counties at St. Croix Valley Business Innovation Center, 1091 Sutherland Ave., River Falls, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

May 10-11: Drive-thru testing for Dunn and Eau Claire counties at CVTC/Prevea Health, 617 W. Clairemont Ave., Eau Claire. May 10: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 11: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

May 13: Drive-thru testing for Chippewa, Clark and Taylor counties at Thorp High School, 605 S. Clark St., Thorp, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

May 14: Drive-thru testing for Chippewa and Rusk counties at Rusk County Fairgrounds, Rusk County Fairgrounds Road, Ladysmith, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The drive-thru testing sites are not limited to residents of those counties, Giese said Monday.

The state plans to announce more testing sites soon, according to a news release from Evers’ office.

The National Guard’s first testing days in western Wisconsin were in Alma and Turtle Lake.

For people without health insurance, many of the testing sites in Eau Claire are “not turning people away,” Giese said. She encouraged people to call those testing sites’ phone screening processes, and if they have difficulty, to call the health department’s COVID-19 hotline at 715-831-7425.

Eyeing more testing

The Wisconsin National Guard’s testing blitz is part of a bigger plan for the state to ramp up testing.

Evers’ plan to reopen the state includes testing up to 85,000 people per week and seeing a decrease in cases. Giese said Monday the state has 51 labs with the capacity to run 11,347 coronavirus tests per day — but only about 3,000 tests are being run per day.

“We’re still well below the capacity number, and well below what we’d like to be at for the state,” she said.

Evers called the state’s testing capacity of over 11,000 tests per day “one of our success stories here in Wisconsin,” but noted that even though labs have the capacity, the number of tests being run in Wisconsin per day is much lower.

Evers said state health officials started contacting nursing homes on Monday to coordinate supplies in advance of testing more than 10,000 residents and staff each week, the Associated Press reported.

Statewide, 8,236 people have tested positive for the virus and 340 have died, according to the state Department of Health Services. Those who have been hospitalized with COVID-19 number 1,621.

COVID-19 is the disease caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. It causes mild symptoms in about 80% of people infected, but severe complications can develop, including pneumonia.

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