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Coronavirus testing kits now available in Milwaukee, Madison

Posted at 6:51 PM, Mar 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-02 19:52:56-05

State health officials are bracing for the potential community spread of the coronavirus as the state lab in Madison and the Milwaukee Health Department obtain kits to test for the virus.

The kits will be able to process within one or two days, officials said at a coronavirus update on Monday afternoon.

"Together, the available testing at both the state lab and the Milwaukee city lab will mean faster results and increased capacity here in Wisconsin," said Dr. Allen Bateman, who is part of the state's communicable disease division.

As of Monday, state health workers are investigating two pending cases of the coronavirus. So far, 18 have tested negative, and the one patient who tested positive has since been released and is "doing well."

The risk for coronavirus is still low, but health workers continue to stress good hygiene, especially as the flu season's peak approaches.

"Anything you can do to stay healthy and stay out of the health care system," said Jeanne Ayers, the state health officer. "As this expands and potentially moves to a community spread the demands on the health care system are going to be significant."

Anyone who returns from a country with an existing outbreak is being asked to self-quarantine for 14 days and monitor for symptoms. That's what four people in Milwaukee are doing after returning from China.

You must meet the criteria from the CDC to be tested for the coronavirus, which includes fever, coughing, history of travel or close contact with a confirmed case.

In the meantime, health workers say to prepare for disruptions in your daily life as they work to control potential spread.

"The ability to do work from home, remote work, maybe not visit your loved ones in a nursing home," Ayers said. "I mean, these are personal disruptions and I think we can expect more of that, not less."

Health officials said, unless it's to a country with an outbreak, there's no need to cancel spring break plans, especially if you are planning to travel domestically—just make sure you practice the same hygiene as you would at home.

Concerns about the spread of the virus are prompting local school districts to come up with plans to keep students healthy.

Shorewood School District sent a letter home last week outlining how it is closely following directives from the state, local and national health authorities. The staff is cleaning classrooms more diligently.

Kelly Barlow is the Shorewood District nurse, and the flu is still her biggest concern. She's stressing students stay home when they are sick and wash their hands properly. She's teaching her students how to do that with glow gel. She also reminds parents the CDC says there's no need for healthy students to wear masks.

Even though the Surgeon General says masks are not an effective way for the public to prevent the virus's spread, local hardware stores can't keep them on the shelves.

"We've been getting three shipments a week of masks because people are buying them so quickly," said David Meinecke of Village Ace Hardware.

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