By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
Nine months ago, when the coronavirus began one of the biggest questions on everyone’s mind was about testing. Testing materials were limited at first, but as the pandemic continued testing kits and sites became widely available.
In Milwaukee, there are several testing locations with the largest being Miller Park, 1 Brewers Way. Mayor Tom Barrett held a press conference to remind Milwaukeeans about the importance of COVID-19 testing on Tuesday, Dec. 22.
“It [Miller Park] is a very important site,” Barrett said. “It has been a successful site.”
Barrett noted that when the Miller Park testing site first opened in October, there was some congestions. Over the past few months, site coordinators have orchestrated a more efficient way to ensure those seeking to get tested can do so quickly.
Testing here is quick and free, Barrett said, and it’s an important tool to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
“It gives you the information you need. It helps you make your personal choices. It helps you make your plans,” he said. “Getting testing can confirm the need to isolate and to allow people to warn their close contacts. It’s all a part of the effort to limit the disease.”
Barrett explained that the rate of positive COVID-19 cases remains high in Milwaukee, but the number of tests being administrated has lowered. When the Miller Park site opened in late October, it administrated about 16,000 tests. Over the next few weeks, it tested 18,000 people with a peak of 19,000 before Thanksgiving.
However, since the start of December, testing has been at an all-time low, between 10,000 to 12,000.
“Testing is still one the main ways that we can make sure as you go and interact in your everyday lives that you are free from covid and not spreading covid,” Interim Health Commissioner Marliana Jackson said.
Jackson said test results be they negative or positive are recorded within 48 hours. She noted that the numbers are still significant, and the health commission is making efforts to get through this last hump.
There are major concerns regarding the upcoming holidays, particularly New Year’s Eve. Jackson said the health department is working with the Milwaukee Police Department to follow up on complaints regarding restaurants and bars.
She said that if an establishment has an approved mitigation plan is allowed to be open as many hours as it chooses.
As of Tuesday, Dec. 22, positivity rates for the City of Milwaukee are 10.4%, but the highest it has been is 20%, Jackson said. She stressed that 10% is still considered a high number.
Milwaukee Health Department’s Dr. Nick Tomaro said that the positivity rate is still high, which indicates a high spread. It’s important to utilize this resource so that contact tracing efforts can be administrated to stop the spread, Tomaro said. The average wait time to receive a test can range, he said, but can sometimes take about 20 minutes.
He asked that people stick to their small gatherings come the holidays.
“We’re still in this time period of high community spread and it’s important to utilize this tool,” he said. “The work we do on the public health level to get through the pandemic is so critical.”
Testing sites are expected to remain operational through summer of next year. Barrett said money allocated for 2020 is being used to continue offering resources in 2021.
The testing sites are open on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve but closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Sites include Northwest Health Center, 7630 W. Mill Rd., Southside Health Center, 1639 S. 23rd St., and Miller Park Way, 1 Brewers Way.