COVID-19 testing down in Wisconsin; residents await vaccine

Entering a phase of "testing fatigue," Wisconsin health officials say that the number of people getting tested for COVID-19 is down as the country looks ahead to a vaccine.

Officials said they expected a bit of a testing slump around the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, but anticipated that things would be back to where they were prior by now. Instead, officials say, the average number of test kits administered per day is down 10,000 compared to two weeks ago.

Andrea Palm, Wisconsin Department of Health Services secretary-designee, said the downward testing trend is being felt across the state -- and likely not attributable to college students not returning to campus after the holiday break.

"We’re all sort of scratching our heads about it, considering the high level of new daily cases that we continue to see," Palm said. "The number of people currently seeking out a test here in Wisconsin is down."

COVID-19 test site at Miller Park

Over the past seven days, Palm said, the average daily number of tests is at 29,500 compared to over 39,000 two weeks ago. The positivity rate remains "quite high," she said -- an indication that not enough people are being tested.

While a vaccine is expected to be in the arms of health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities before the end of 2020, it will likely take months for manufacturing to ramp-up to meet the demand for the general public.

Palm said that now more than ever, Wisconsinites need to recommit to testing as an important piece of the puzzle in controlling the spread of the virus.

"With the vaccine on the horizon, we must recommit to the practices we know work," Palm said.

One of the main challenges officials anticipate with the vaccine is making sure that everyone gets their second dose. Discussions are underway to address that concern.

"It is what makes this vaccine campaign so unprecedented. One (company's vaccine) requires a second dose after 21 days, one (other company's vaccine) requires a second dose after 28 days," Palm said.

Gov. Tony Evers on Tuesday went on the record with his plans to get vaccinated: "When my turn comes up, my wife and I will take the COVID-19 vaccine."

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The Wisconsin Immunization Registry is an online database that tracks which vaccine residents have received and when they'd be due for the second COVID-19 vaccine dose.

At the Miller Park COVID-19 testing site in Milwaukee, officials said they don't know why testing is down while other states see testing at or above pre-Thanksgiving numbers.

Open Record: COVID-19 vaccine

Just today, a 90-year-old woman in the UK became the first person to get the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, outside clinical trials. Here in the United States, we're just days away from the FDA hearing its first case for approval. In this episode of Open Record, the FOX6 Investigators dig into the coronavirus vaccine. They take listeners through what we know so far about the different vaccines and how Wisconsin plans to distribute them. You'll learn more about the process of developing the vaccine and the approval process. The team also explains what happens after people start getting vaccinated.

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