MHD can test '25-30 specimens a day' for coronavirus; federal funding could expand testing

MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, health officials, and other leaders on Sunday, March 8 offered an update on the fight against coronavirus -- focused on preparedness, with no cases in Milwaukee or Milwaukee County.

"We want to be prepared as we can be," said Mayor Barrett. "We have been working closely with the state, and the state has been working closely with the CDC."

As of Friday, March 6, officials with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services announced 12 pending tests for coronavirus -- a total of 31 negative tests, and just one positive test in the state -- a Dane County resident who returned from China and was placed under quarantine at the end of January. That patient recovered.

In Milwaukee, four people were under surveillance for COVID-19, and as of Sunday, three had been cleared.

"We want this to be a community response," said Jeanette Kowalik, health commissioner. "This isn't all on one entity. This is our opportunity to prevent this novel coronavirus or COVID-19 from being in our community."

The Milwaukee Health Department lab is one of two testing sites in Wisconsin, and Kowalik said Sunday more sites were expected to be opened in the coming weeks.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett

"The Health Department can run about 25 to 30 specimens a day and will analyze at least one batch a day at this point in time," said Kowalik.

Meanwhile, close to half a billion dollars in federal funding was allocated for public health activity to help fight coronavirus, which could allow for more expansive testing.

"It's really time for us to behave like responsible citizens and adults," said Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wisconsin. "This is really some serious stuff."

"We are going to prepare," said Mayor Barrett. "We need to prepare. We must prepare."

Mayor Barrett said Sunday he had been in contact with hospital officials to discuss bed availability if needed and said he was hopeful more information would result in lower anxiety in the community.