Kenosha County officials working on COVID-19 response as neighboring Racine sees spike in cases

KENOSHA -- Kenosha County officials are encouraging residents to take advantage of free COVID-19 testing, available in nearby cities.

Sgt. Matthew Nicks

One after the other, cars lined up at Burlington High School on Wednesday, May 13 where members of the Wisconsin National Guard are conducting COVID-19 tests.

"The wait time is approximately one hour," said Sgt. Matthew Nicks of the Wisconsin National Guard. "The turnout has been pretty steady."

The site is one of three, free locations that Kenosha County health officials are asking residents to go to if they have symptoms of the coronavirus. National reports have ranked Racine County 10th in the U.S. for the largest week-to-week increase in positive cases. According to public health data, Kenosha County is not far behind in terms of confirmed cases.

Drive-thru COVID-19 testing at Burlington High School

"Early on we had very little testing. We were only testing the most severely sick people," said Dr. Jennifer Freiheit, health officer with the Kenosha County Division of Public Health.

According to Freiheit, the spike in her area is not due to an outbreak but, rather, an increase in testing. At first, her team was focused on getting ahead of outbreaks at certain facilities. Now, they're able to focus on the public and are noticing the most vulnerable to COVID-19 in the Kenosha County area are the Hispanic population and undocumented workers in the county.

Dr. Jen Freiheit, Kenosha County health officer

Freiheit says it is difficult to obtain health information from who workers who reside out of state, too.

"When the public health department calls...we're not concerned with documentation...we just want to help you," said Freiheit. "So many people live in Illinois...are ordered to get tested in Illinois."

Freiheit said her team is working to educate over 240 businesses on preventing the spread of the virus while also reaching out to some of the most vulnerable.

"If they are not our residents, they are working in our county and we want to keep them safe and secure too," she said.

Kenosha County health officials said there is potential for one of the Wisconsin National Guard testing sites to come to Kenosha County. For now, they ask residents to take advantage of testing at sites in Burlington or Milwaukee.