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Wisconsin National Guard hands over Miller Park COVID-19 testing site to Milwaukee Health Department

National Guard Members Perform COVID-19 testing at UMOS
Posted at 4:06 PM, Nov 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-25 19:21:05-05

MILWAUKEE — This is the last day the Wisconsin National Guard will be in charge of COVID-19 testing at Miller Park. The Milwaukee Health Department will take over control after it reopens on Friday morning. The National Guard has slowly been handing over the community testing site to them since October.

National Guard Members Perform COVID-19 testing at UMOS
Citizen Soldiers and Citizen Airmen from the Wisconsin National Guard collect specimens for COVID-19 testing Oct. 7 at a community-based testing site at UMOS in Milwaukee. The Wisconsin National Guard has multiple COVID-19 specimen collection teams operating throughout the state. Wisconsin National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Katie Theusch

The troops have been running community testing sites in Milwaukee since May.

“The state’s strategy for COVID-19 relied heavily on mass community-based testing, so they looked to the guard to help execute that because it was something we were already training and preparing for,” said Major Joe Trovato of the Wisconsin National Guard.

If you remember, the Wisconsin National Guard first started testing at nursing homes and businesses. Then, it opened the UMOS Community Testing Site on May 11 and the Custer Stadium Site on the north side on June 1. Those two sites eventually merged into one centralized site at Miller Park in October.

“Each of those sites had anywhere from 50 to 100 guard members on-site at each particular location from the peak of this. And since the summer when new technology was brought in so we have been able to pair back the personnel,” said Trovato.

Those members have been busy. Since May, the National Guard has done 272,089 COVID-19 tests in the City of Milwaukee at the UMOS, Custer Stadium and Miller Park sites. Added to that, the guard administered another 31,000 tests around Milwaukee County at places like nursing homes and food processing plants. Finally, in the entire state, the troops have administered 924,572 COVID-19 tests.

“Our troops have been there a long time, all the way from May now,” said Trovato. “To be able to serve in our own community is super, super rewarding. And frankly, it’s why most of us wear the uniform.

Now the guard says it needs to help other areas of the state set up community-based sites like the one at Miller Park. For more than six weeks it has been training its civilian replacement at the Milwaukee Health Department and those workers have been slowly taking over.

“There has been a slow transition and they have been great with training and really supporting us to make it a smooth transition,” said Marlaina Jackson, interim commissioner of the Milwaukee Health Department.

“While pandemic response is something kind of new for the Wisconsin National Guard serving our community in times of need is exactly what we are designed and built to do,” said Trovato.

The Miller Park COVID-19 testing site will be closed for Thanksgiving. It will reopen on Friday with the Milwaukee Health Department fully in charge.

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