Palm: Not enough tests for safe college, school re-opening in Wisconsin

Coronavirus

FILE – In this March 12, 2019 file photo, Andrea Palm, then Secretary-designee of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, speaks during a meeting with reporters in Madison, Wis. Wisconsin’s tenuous bipartisan detente in fighting the coronavirus pandemic broke down this week with Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ decision to extend a stay-at-home order through Memorial Day, a divide likely to result in lawsuits that may determine who has the power to say when the state can start to reopen. (AP Photo/Scott Bauer File)

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin can’t process as many coronavirus tests as health officials say they want when schools and colleges reopen this fall.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that state Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm said Friday that health officials will prioritize testing and processing for outbreaks as students return to classrooms and resume interacting but there isn’t enough testing capacity.

Three times last month the number of tests conducted met or exceeded the state’s capacity to analyze to them.

The state’s processing has increased since then from around 22,600 to 26,162 as of Friday.

Students in the UW System are returning to campus this month as other colleges across the country have seen spikes in coronavirus cases that have led to sending students home. Interim University of Wisconsin President Tommy Thompson says he has a threshold in mind for when campuses will have to shut down due to coronavirus cases, but he’s not saying what it is.

The UW System is receiving more than $32 million in financial assistance to support coronavirus testing this year. The effort is funded by Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act dollars provided directly to Wisconsin. Gov. Evers says the funding will go toward its COVID-19 plan, helping campuses to test symptomatic students, those who have had close contact with symptomatic students, and students living in residence halls.

Students have already returned to some campuses, like St. Norbert College in De Pere. The college tells WFRV Local 5 they’re doing what they can to keep COVID-19 off the campus.

Some school districts, like Green Bay and Appleton, have elected to start the year virtually. Multiple districts, like Kimberly and Oshkosh, have postponed fall high school sports until spring.

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