Health providers extend COVID-19 drive-thru testing sites, some postpone

Posted at 5:12 PM, Mar 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-23 18:12:40-04

MILWAUKEE COUNTY — Health care providers across the state continue the process of making testing available for people with a variety of symptoms of the coronavirus, but some continue to face challenges with a shortage of testing supplies.

Traffic signs now line the streets by Ascension’s West Allis Gateway Clinic, directing cars to a drive-thru testing site for the coronavirus.

It’s one of many that opened Monday, designated for those with milder symptoms to separate them from the more critical patients at Ascension’s hospitals.

Others are in Franklin, Milwaukee, Wauwatosa, Mount Pleasant, Grafton, with more opening in the area later this week.

Like all testing sites, you can’t just show up. You’ll need to undergo a phone or virtual screening ahead of time. Then if warranted, a nurse will make you an appointment.

A spokesperson for Ascension told TMJ4 News they have the supplies available to test these additional patients.

On the other hand, officials at Aurora Health Care said because of the national shortage of test kits, they’re putting a hold on opening drive-thru sites “to conserve tests for those in critical need.”

Initially, Aurora expected to open one this week at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Milwaukee.

Officials with Aurora still say anyone with symptoms should call their hotline or schedule a virtual appointment before going to their facilities. Those with more critical symptoms will be sent to the hospital for testing, while those with milder symptoms will receive guidance on how to self-quarantine.

The drive-thru testing site at Froedtert South’s Pleasant Prairie Clinic also remains open by appointment for those who meet CDC criteria.

According to Andrea Palm of the Department of Health Services, they’re starting to see more health care providers have the capacity to test their own samples, taking a burden off the state lab.

“What is happening through the state lab is about 400 tests a day,” Palm said.

Until the testing supplies increase and more clinical labs receive authorization, Chief Medical Officer of the Bureau of Communicable Diseases, Dr. Ryan Westergaard urges providers to only send samples from critical patients to the lab.

“We prioritize testing for people for whom it’s most important to know for their own management clinically,” Dr. Westergaard said.

Officials from Ascension told TMJ4 News, samples from those with milder symptoms taken at these drive-thru sites will get tested at commercial labs.

For everything you need to know about testing, including contact information and how to get an appointment, click here.

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