Wisconsin expanding to new phase of COVID-19 testing

Posted at 10:01 PM, Apr 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-09 09:11:42-04

The state of Wisconsin now has the ability to test 3,500 people a day, according to health care officials in a Department of Health Services briefing Monday.

Dr. Ryan Westergaard, Chief Medical Officer of the DHS Bureau of Communicable Diseases, said improved technology as we start to understand the virus has allowed for more tests nationwide, and in the state of Wisconsin.

"We're not, I would say, out of the woods because they're still subject to some limitations but were in a much better position we were in even a week ago," Westergaard said.

The tests were previously reserved for people in intensive care units and healthcare workers who were showing symptoms of the virus.

In this new phase, doctors will be given discretion to determine who needs a test. They can also be used to target areas of immediate need, like nursing homes with positive cases.

"How do we open the pipeline a little, recognizing were never going to be in a place where either asymptomatic people should be tested or where everyone needs to be test," said DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm.

Westergaard pointed to a study out of China that he said suggests as much as 86 percent of the people infected did not go to a hospital to get tested.

"Right now our guess is were testing the tip of an iceberg that might be 10 to 20 percent of the most sick people," he said.

State health officials reaffirmed that not everyone needs to be tested, and DHS is providing guidance for healthcare providers to make sure the people getting tested are the ones who need it most.

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