MONROE — A team from the Wisconsin National Guard helped to test 260 people for COVID-19 during a facility-wide testing event May 26 at Pleasant View Nursing Home.
Results from the nasal-swab specimen collection are expected back by May 31.
The event was prompted by a federal recommendation for testing of employees and residents at all nursing homes nationwide, not by an outbreak.
Pleasant View has had no positive COVID-19 cases, said administrator Terry Snow. The county-funded nursing home has a nine-bed isolation wing ready in case residents test positive.
Preparation for the testing event took a week, with a goal of having everyone tested on the same day. It was “wonderful” to have the option of getting help from the National Guard so staff could get back to taking care of residents, Snow said.
The National Guard team administered tests to 160 Pleasant View employees, said spokesperson Capt. Joe Trovato. Drive-through testing was available on-site for any employee not working that day.
Pleasant View nurses then tested 100 residents, bringing the total tested to 260. The whole process was done by 11 a.m. and was “very organized and very well-run,” Snow said.
Anyone had the option to not participate. Only a few declined to get tested, Snow said.
The goal of facility-wide testing is to identify asymptomatic cases of COVID-19. Research into the new coronavirus indicates people can be infected with the virus and feel no symptoms but still spread it to others.
Julie Willems Van Dijk, deputy secretary for the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, said in a press briefing May 26 that the agency has “been reaching out proactively to our skilled nursing facilities” in the state and drawing on funding through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act to offer free testing kits.
The agency is in a “continuous phase of tracking,” she said, noting that it had been two weeks since the state Supreme Court blocked the “Safer at Home” public health order, effectively lifting restrictions on businesses, gatherings and travel.
“This will be the work of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services from now until there is a vaccine. We don’t want to be caught off guard,” she said. All it takes is one asymptomatic person with lots of contacts to “(start) up the fire all over again.”
Hospitals across Wisconsin are generally doing OK but “we’ve seen a slow creep” upward in COVID-19 hospitalizations, she said.
On May 27, Wisconsin set a single-day record for new COVID-19 cases as well as reported deaths from the virus.
National Guard members have been deployed across the state to help with the response to the pandemic, including at an ongoing community testing site at Alliant Energy Center in Madison where free testing is offered Mondays through Saturdays until June 24, no appointment necessary.
Locally, as of May 29, Green County had 17 active cases of COVID-19 and Lafayette County had 11. In total, 66 Green County residents and 27 Lafayette County residents have tested positive. In Green County, according to the state’s mapped data, most cases are in the Monroe area.
“In general the majority of Green County’s positive cases have had symptoms of infection at the time of testing,” said RoAnn Warden, director of Green County Public Health. Those who test positive are monitored daily “until they are considered no longer infectious.”
In the past week, Green County reported its first two infections of children in the 0-9 age group. Warden said these infections were mild and due to household spread of the coronavirus, not to exposure at a daycare.
“COVID-19 is a highly contagious disease that continues to show that older adults and any person of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions may be at high risk for severe illness,” she said. Anytime people cannot practice physical distancing easily, “I am concerned since we know that COVID-19 is easily transmitted from person to person.”
Besides the May 26 testing at Pleasant View, Green County has had one other reported facility-wide testing event. On May 5, 167 people were tested at Wisconsin Cheese Group’s packaging plant in response to an outbreak among employees.
Warden said 19 Green County residents employed at the plant tested positive — in addition to employees who live in other counties but are not tracked locally. No employees who tested positive are still in isolation.
However, Warden said that due to household transmission, some contacts from Wisconsin Cheese Group who tested positive are in isolation.