WI Republicans propose free weekly at-home rapid COVID-19 tests

Posted at 5:15 PM, Dec 02, 2020

Wisconsin's Republican lawmakers want to make rapid COVID-19 testing available weekly for people at home.

It would be similar to a program in Minnesota where residents can get free mail-order tests.

"I think it’s one of the most important pieces of the whole package," said State Representative Tyler August.

Republicans propose the Wisconsin Department of Health Services work with private vendors to get weekly rapid antigen tests to homes across the state. The tests would be free to residents with costs covered by insurance providers, BadgerCare, or the state.

"Healthcare experts have said that one of the best things we can do to stop the spread of the virus is to know when we have the virus and when we may be carrying it. This weekly testing for families could be very important so they’re not going off to school or off to work with the virus," said August.

Dr. Ben Weston, with Milwaukee County's Office of Emergency Management, cautioned that antigen tests need to be done in a careful setting and with context. He explained rapid antigen tests can be faster and easier to process, but they are not as accurate as the PCR test many of us are familiar with.

Dr. Weston added getting tests that reasonably accurate, easy to use, and would not overwhelm labs to people's homes could play a role in fighting the pandemic.

"If we could do it in the setting of still making sure those important personal decisions of masking and physical distancing and open-air environments I think there’s a place for them," said Dr. Weston.

August said the type of test they would use depends on availability, but they want the at-home tests to give people results that same day.

Senate Republicans do not plan to take up COVID-19 relief measures until January.

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