MONROE — Starting Nov. 2, Green County's free drive-through community testing for COVID-19 is moving indoors and will be open three days per week in Monroe.
The new testing site is at the old MTX facility at 628 W. 10 1/2 St., located across the street from Badger State Lube and around the corner from Honey Creek Park on Monroe's west side.
It will be open 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays, 2 to 6 p.m. Wednesdays and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursdays. Previously testing was offered Wednesdays and Thursdays in Monroe outside the National Guard Armory and on alternating Mondays in Brodhead and New Glarus, but starting Nov. 2, all three days of testing will be at the Monroe indoor site.
Monroe Truck Equipment is sponsoring the new testing site by helping with logistics and signage.
Bridget Craker, public health educator with Green County Public Health, said the empty former factory is large enough to have cars inside even while they're waiting in line.
Moving testing indoors protects the testing team and those getting tested in the drive-through from the snow, sleet and ice of winter, Craker said. Those getting tested must remain in their vehicles, and for now, testing is only available to drive-ins, not people walking or biking in.
Signup for testing is at gcpublichealth.org. The nasal swab lab test is offered to anyone 5 and older, although 5- to 17-year-olds must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian authorized to give consent for the test.
Green County Public Health is receiving between 500 and 600 swabs per week for the test site, or about 150 tests per test day, said director RoAnn Warden.
Since the Green County agency started offering free local community testing in early September, it hasn't had to close early due to running out of testing supplies, Warden said.
High demand and limited supplies forced a new Wisconsin National Guard testing site at Blackhawk Technical College in Janesville to close early two weeks in a row, as it quickly ran through its weekly allocation of 900 test kits.
"Demand continues to surge for community-wide COVID-19 testing," Blackhawk Tech spokeswoman Jennifer Thompson wrote in an email Oct. 28.
'We're in a crisis-type situation'
The percentage of positive tests during the previous 14-day period is continuing to rise in Green County. As of Oct. 29, it was nearly 20%. Earlier in the week, Lafayette County reported a rate of nearly 22%.
It should be closer to 3%, according to an analysis published by the Harvard Global Health Institute. A low test positive rate indicates broad and accessible testing for everyone, even those without symptoms who could be unwittingly spreading COVID-19.
The Harvard analysis found low test positivity means a lot of tests are being administered to a lot of different people, many of whom may not know they are at risk. High test positivity rates "occur when, for example, the only people being tested are those arriving at urgent care because they are worried they might be sick."
Widespread testing is key to controlling the coronavirus pandemic because "we know that there's a great deal of spread occurring from people who are asymptomatic" in Green County, Warden said.
Green County Public Health uses the research from Harvard as a model to help guide mitigation strategies, she said.
A positive test rate above 10% indicates a critical level of disease spread and the need for heightened precautions.
"Now's not the time to gather. It's just too risky for transmission to occur," Warden said.
Statewide, the Department of Health Services reports the surge in cases broke records this week and is straining hospitals. All but two of Wisconsin's 72 counties, including Green and Lafayette, are at "very high" disease activity by state metrics.
"Right now we're in a crisis-type situation with the spread that's occurring," Warden said. "Here at Public Health, our contact tracing is really maxed out ... We would just like people to stay at home as much as possible and to go to work and have your groceries delivered or be brief (in stores) and wear that mask and please physically distance.
"These are things that we know work and we need everyone to take them seriously and practice them so we can really slow down the spread of this disease."
Green County reported 23 new confirmed cases Oct. 29 for a total of 121 active cases, with five hospitalized. Lafayette County reported 16 new confirmed cases and one new probable case, for a total of 119 active cases and 16 probable cases.
The School District of Monroe has reported a decreasing number of positive cases. As of Oct. 29, two students and three staff were positive for COVID-19 and a total of 42 people district-wide were in quarantine.
Rick Waski, district administrator, announced in an email to parents that Monroe schools are returning to "Plan B" on Nov. 2, with groups rotating between in-person and virtual learning.
The Pecatonica Area School District shut down in-person instruction for 6th through 12th graders on Oct. 28 after identifying a positive COVID-19 case in the middle and high school. Face-to-face instruction is expected to resume Nov. 9.