36 labs and counting: Wisconsin plans to increase COVID-19 testing capacity

Wisconsin State Lab of Hygiene (Gabriella Rusk/WMTV)
Wisconsin State Lab of Hygiene (Gabriella Rusk/WMTV)(NBC15)
Published: Apr. 20, 2020 at 11:57 AM CDT
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The number of labs performing Coronavirus tests in Wisconsin has increased from eight labs in March to 36 labs, and the state is looking at more ways to add to the testing capacity.

Governor Tony Evers announced the increased COVID-19 testing initiatives on Monday.

He said the state will add more labs and more testing capacity in the coming days and weeks. The state will need federal partnership to ensure the chemical needed for the test and other critical supplies in Wisconsin.

Initial Labs

Wisconsin started COVID-19 testing with the State Lab of Hygiene and the Milwaukee Public Health Lab. It then included UW Health, Gundersen Lutheran, ACL Laboratories, Mayo Clinic, and Wisconsin Diagnostic lab.

Testing in the state increased to involve Exact Sciences, Epic Systems, Marshfield Clinic Health System, the Wisconsin Clinical Lab Network, the Wisconsin National Guard, and other partners.

New initiatives

Plans are in place to increase testing in Wisconsin, including.

  • 11 National Guard teams have responded to hotspots and underserved areas of the state will collect specimens for COVID-19 testing. Starting today, two teams will be staffing standup specimen collection sites at Milwaukee Health Services Inc.’s clinics.
  • Starting this week, 1,000 tests will be delivered per week to Tribal health clinics.
  • Exact Sciences is devoting part of its lab capacity and resources to COVID-19 tests processing. They will be able to provide 20,000 tests and processing each week.
  • Epic is helping to distribute Exact Sciences’ tests by providing the interoperability necessary to connect healthcare providers with Exact Sciences.
  • Promega is sourcing high demand reagents and materials for a number of labs in the state including Exact Sciences’ lab. In addition to these materials, they’ve also shared equipment.
  • This week, Marshfield Clinic Health System will be working on ramping up to process 10,000 tests per week from providers around the state.
  • 2,200 test collection supplies and PPE are headed to Green Bay.
  • Wisconsin Diagnostic Labs provided support to the 16th Street Community Health Clinic drive-thru testing project. They’re also expanding their capacity and offering help to clinical partners experiencing challenges with access to lab capacity.
  • Wisconsin will be receiving over 250,000 additional test collection supplies in the coming weeks.