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New community testing sites “a piece of the puzzle” to slowing coronavirus spread

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COVID-19 testing

MADISON (WKOW) -- Wisconsin is adding 71 free COVID-19 testing sites, and health experts said the sites could significantly help control the spread of the virus.

"The easier it is to get the test, the easier it is to try to get on top of the virus," Dr. Jeff Pothof said Thursday. Pothof is the Chief Quality Officer for UW Health.

Pothof said the virus is spreading rapidly throughout the state and is not under control right now.

"The story in Wisconsin is really about a very frightening, efficient spread through all of our communities," he said. "It's making a lot of people sick, and a lot of people are dying."

He said the additional testing sites could contribute to slowing this spread by helping more people know if they're positive. Before Thursday's announcement, some Wisconsinites didn't have accessible testing in their communities, and they were having to drive several hours to sites like the Alliant Energy Center.

"That's a pretty big negative incentive," Pothof said.

When people who are positive don't get tested, Pothof said they don't go through any contact tracing, which means anyone they expose won't know they're at risk for being positive, too.

"It seems like it's in the benefit of the greater good to offer these tests for free so not only the person who desires the test knows what's going on but so others of us in communities don't get sick, either," he said.

Although Pothof said increased testing is good, he warned it's not enough on its own.

"If we have increased testing but we don't have enough contact tracing to follow up with the people who test positive, the increased testing won't give us as much benefit," he said.

State and local health officials are asking anyone who tests positive to help out contact tracers by notifying anyone they've been in contact with and asking them to quarantine for 14 days.

Pothof said as these new sites get off the ground, we can expect to see more positive tests as a result of increased testing. However, he said we shouldn't think the increased testing is the sole cause of a rise in positive cases.

"That just falls flat on it's face when you look at how many hospitalizations we have and how many deaths we're experiencing in the state right now," he said. "More testing doesn't result in increased hospitalizations. Our hospitalizations are out of control right now. Getting a COVID-19 test doesn't kill you. We're seeing many more deaths right now."