MADISON, Wis. (WFRV) – Governor Tony Evers has announced a $1 billion statewide effort to support coronavirus testing, contact tracing, acquisition of needed supplies, emergency operations, and resources for local communities throughout Wisconsin.
The effort is funded by $1.17 billion in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act dollars. Gov. Evers says the state has allocated about $260 million for testing efforts and $75 million for contact tracing.
“As I’ve said before, regardless of the political overtones of the past week, we still know what we need to do to box in this virus and help keep people safe,” Gov. Evers said. “Our statewide approach to containing the spread of COVID-19 will continue with robust testing and contact tracing efforts in all corners of Wisconsin, resources that ensure our critical workers have the equipment they need to do their jobs safely, and direct investments in local communities and health providers. Wisconsin’s Safer At Home order may have ended, but our all-out war on this virus has not.”
“Our public health experts continue to recommend that folks stay home as much as possible, limit travel, wear a face mask in public, and practice good hygiene,” Gov. Evers continued. “I also urge anyone who needs a test to go get tested at one of our community testing sites and help protect your community and family from this virus.”
The testing program includes collecting coronavirus tests and ensuring those tests can be processed quickly and accurately. Currently, officials say 52 labs in Wisconsin have a daily testing capacity of more than 13,000 tests per day. Gov. Evers says the goal is for Wisconsin’s testing capacity to be 85,000 tests per week. To support these efforts, the Wisconsin National Guard is currently operating 25 field testing teams working throughout the state to provide both community and targeted field testing.
The governor says the testing program includes:
- COVID-19 test kits: The state’s testing program will spend $202 million to provide COVID-19 test collection kits to Wisconsin hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, local public health departments, and others at no cost to ensure that everyone who needs a test receives a test.
- Local preparedness grants: These grants will provide $30,000 in funding to 96 local and tribal public health departments (for a total of approximately $3 million) to update preparedness plans to ensure Wisconsin communities, schools, and businesses are prepared to support testing efforts into the fall.
- Local community and occupational testing pilots: These pilot programs will infuse $45 million in funding to local public health departments, occupational health providers, home health agencies, and health systems to conduct COVID19 testing in congregate, community and occupational settings. This program will incentivize testing by providing eligible providers $35 per COVID-19 test administered to a Wisconsin resident and will run through August 31, 2020.
- Public health testing coordinators: The testing program will provide $10 million in funding to local and tribal public health departments to coordinate local testing efforts.
The state’s contact tracing program will pair newly obtained analytics software with the labor of individual state employees to reach out to a COVID-19 patient’s recent contacts. Currently, more than 200 current state employees have been reassigned from typical duties to make these crucial phone calls. In the coming weeks, the state will be hiring additional limited term employees to increase the scale of the contact tracing program.
Of the $75 million, up to $50 million will be available to local and tribal public health departments to hire additional staff to perform disease investigation, contact tracing, and monitoring. The remaining funds will go towards technology resources and hiring additional state staff to supplement local efforts to quickly and effectively conduct interviews.
The state has also allocated $40 million towards the procurement of ventilators. Because of the importance of ventilators for COVID-19 patients, Wisconsin has taken steps to increase the number of ventilators in the state by purchasing 1,542 additional ventilators.
Gov. Evers adds that the state has also prepared for a possible surge in coronavirus cases through the construction and operations of a 530-bed Alternative Care Facility at State Fair Park in Milwaukee County. The ACF could house low-acuity coronavirus patients if there was a surge in hospitalization rates, according to officials.
In addition, the state has also supported the creation of an ACF at the Milwaukee House of Correction. Gov. Evers says the state has evaluated and planned for the possible construction of an ACF in Dane County, should an ACF be needed there at a later date. There are also numerous communities throughout Wisconsin that have discussed the potential need to create surge hospital space in the event that we see an increase in COVID-19 patients.
Gov. Evers says state agencies across Wisconsin have expended significant funds, approximately $200 million, in support of getting these emergency operations up and running and of providing important resources and assistance to local partners across the state. Additionally, state agencies have incurred direct costs associated with the operational impacts of COVID-19.