Evers: $1 billion statewide effort will support COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, community resources

Governor says ‘all-out war’ on virus continues despite end of Safer at Home order


By Jalen Maki

Tomahawk Leader Co-Editor

MADISON — Governor Tony Evers on Tuesday, May 19 announced a $1 billion statewide effort to support COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, acquisition of 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, stated a release from Evers’ office.

The state has allocated roughly $260 million for testing efforts and $75 million for contact tracing.

The funds set aside for testing will be used to procure COVID-19 tests and ensure the tests can be processed “quickly and accurately.” The testing program includes $202 million in funding for COVID-19 test kits, $30,000 in local preparedness grants to 96 local tribal and public health departments (totaling approximately $3 million), $45 million for community and occupational testing pilots, and $10 million for public health testing coordinators.

Wisconsin’s testing capacity currently stands at 13,000 tests per day, the governor’s office said, with 52 active labs processing and analyzing results. The state’s goal is to have the capacity to conduct 85,000 tests per week.

“The cost estimate includes making the 85,000 tests available at no charge to patients and includes the cost of the specimen collection materials, diagnostic services and shipping,” the governor’s office said. “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 state’s contact tracing program will see up to $50 million made available to local and tribal public health departments to hire additional staff to perform disease investigation, contact tracing and monitoring, with the remaining funds being allocated to “technology resources and hiring additional state staff to supplement local efforts to quickly and effectively conduct interviews.”

The governor’s office said the state took steps “early on in the COVID-19 outbreak” to obtain personal protective equipment (PPE).

“This action ranged from requesting PPE from the strategic national stockpile (SNS) to working with public and private sector partners to identify additional sources of PPE for acquisition,” the governor’s office stated.

The acquisition of personal protective equipment (PPE) will cost an estimated $150 million. After the PPE is obtained, it will be distributed to recipients throughout the state, including health care facilities, first responders, and local governments, according to the governor’s office.

$40 million has been set aside for the procurement of 1,542 additional ventilators.

Citing “a great deal of concern that lifting of the Safer at Home may result in a surge of COVID-19 related patients,” the state set aside roughly $445 million “to ensure Wisconsin hospital systems and communities are prepared to handle a surge of COVID-19 patients over the summer and fall.”

The state has prepared for a possible surge in COVID-19 cases by constructing an Alternative Care Facility (ACF) at State Fair Park in Milwaukee, which “will be able to house low-acuity COVID-19 patients should there be a surge in hospitalization rates.” The state, in cooperation with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), supported the creation of an ACF at the Milwaukee House of Correction, and have planned for the construction of an ACF in Dane County, should the need arise.

“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,” Evers said in the release. “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,” 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.”

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