State and local health officials expressed concerns Tuesday after seeing a steady and steep decline in the number of people getting tested for the coronavirus.
Wisconsin health leaders say the state is equipped to test far more people than the amount that have been showing up to learn their status at sites like the drive-thru location outside Miller Park.
Over the past two weeks, state health department data shows about 10,000 fewer Wisconsinites are getting tested each day compared to the weeks prior. Milwaukee County and state health officials said they’re puzzled as to why.
“We’re all sort of scratching our heads about it considering the high level of new daily cases that we continue to see,” said Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary Designee Andrea Palm. "Often that motivates people to get tested.”
Palm said she expected to see a drop-off in testing during the week of Thanksgiving but the trend has continued since. On average over the past two weeks, fewer than 30,000 Wisconsinites have been tested each day compared to more than 41,000 per day during the previous two weeks. Meanwhile, Wisconsin’s 7-day positivity rate per person came in at 30.5 percent on Tuesday.
“If we don't test enough people, we will not find the cases that are out there. And this is shown in that increase that we're seeing in the percent positivity,” said Milwaukee County's emergency medical director Dr. Ben Weston.
The same trend can be found in Milwaukee County’s testing numbers. Between Nov. 25 and Dec. 1, 21,181 tests were administered in the county, a sharp decline from the three weeks prior that averaged between 31,000 to 35,114 tests each week.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett warns people not to ease up on testing with news of vaccines heading to the state.
“I think understandably, we all want to be filled with hope and optimism that the vaccine here, that we're basically out of the woods, but it's going to be these last few months, it probably will be the hardest ones,” Barrett said.
Palm said a few other states are seeing a similar decline in daily testing, but many more states have experienced an increase since Thanksgiving.