MILWAUKEE — Demand for COVID-19 testing in Milwaukee has jumped amid a rise in positive cases of the virus, including the more contagious Delta variant.
At the city's drive-thru COVID-19 test clinic at American Family Field, officials say testing has increased fourfold from just last week.
"Last couple of days, I haven't been feeling well. So, of course, with all the talk and conversation [about Delta], I decided to get tested," said Ralph Pamenter, a retired resident of Brookfield who visited the clinic.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS), there were more than 1,000 new cases on July 30, the first 1,000-plus day since April.
DHS also said that the highly infectious Delta variant is spreading more quickly than any other strain of the virus within the state.
“I think we anticipated this was going to happen, once it made its way here, that it was going to become the predominant variant. And sure enough here we are, and we know it’s more contagious,” said Milwaukee Health Department Commissioner Kirsten Johnson.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has also warned that Delta’s transmission window is longer, and it may make the elderly sicker.
Roughly 5,700 people in Wisconsin have received a vaccination daily on average over the past three days, compared to 3,200 on average daily over the previous 14 days.
From Monday, Milwaukee Health Department is staggering hours at clinics to help accommodate the growing demand for tests amid area residents working different shifts (see test locations and hours below).
"It’s really important for us to do contact tracing and identify where spread may be occurring, so we really prefer that people get tested at one of the sites," said Johnson.
Beyond gathering data, Johnson said PCR tests are more reliable, although take-home tests are effective.
Rapid antigen test kits are available over-the-counter and online, and some have been authorized by the FDA for emergency use.
This week, Milwaukee Public Health issued a mask advisory, asking people to wear masks indoors regardless of whether they've been vaccinated.
"We're hopeful people take it to heart," said Johnson.
In the meantime, the city will continue to watch the data. It expects case numbers to rise for the next several weeks, increasing the chances that stricter health regulations beyond a mask advisory are issued.
"I don't think any of us want to do that, but recognize that we may have to," said Johnson.
The Northwest Health Center is located at 7630 W. Mill Rd; Southside Health Center is at 1639 S. 23rd St. The sites will operate Monday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Tuesday and Thursday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday hours are 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and clinics are closed Wednesday.
The drive-thru clinic at American Family Field operates Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. in the "Yount Lot."