276 COVID-19 tests administered, 1 positive at community event

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A member of the Wisconsin National Guard 641st Troop Command Battalion, of Madison, administers a nasal swab test to one of 276 citizens who were tested for the coronavirus at the drive-through Community COVID-19 Testing Friday, June 12, in the Prairie du Chien High School north parking lot. Those giving the test were dressed in full personal protective equipment. (Photos by Correne Martin)

Vehicles line up in two drive-through lanes for the community COVID-19 testing conducted by the Wisconsin National Guard Friday in Prairie du Chien.

National Guard and public health officials question one individual about to be tested. A few personal questions were asked of each person in order for officials to be able to relay their results.

By Correne Martin

 

A community-based testing for COVID-19 was offered Friday at the Prairie du Chien High School grounds, where 276 tests were administered to residents of Crawford County and the surrounding communities. 

With a majority of the results from a Madison laboratory reported by press time, only one of those individuals tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the county health department. This case, from Crawford County, is in addition to the previous 26 cases the county held steady at for 19 days—from May 26 through June 14.

Friday’s drive-through testing was conducted in the north parking lot, in two separate lanes, by the Wisconsin National Guard’s 641st Troop Command Battalion, in cooperation with public health and emergency management, at no cost to the community. Surplus supplies came from the state. 

It was a clear and sunny, eight-hour day of testing, felt especially by the many dressed in personal protective equipment—including face shields, masks, gloves and gowns. Thanks to donations from Nelson True Value and the Prairie Rod and Gun Club, some tents provided reprieve from the beating sun. Lunch, water and Gatorade were also provided by emergency management.

Health officials took personal information from those in line, with the purpose of being able to contact individuals with their results. 

Citizens who received the test learned their personal results within a few days. Whether positive or negative, guidance to protect themselves and others was handed out the day of the testing.

Guardsmen administering the tests did so with a shallow nasal swab up both nostrils, then inserted into specimen vials. This method was used over the more invasive, deep nasal cavity swab, because of newer technology at the lab in Madison, which procured Friday’s results, explained Crawford County Health Officer Cindy Riniker.

While the majority receiving the test had COVID-19 symptoms, some were city employees who were required to be probed, county employees whose choices were optional, people with underlying health conditions or others advised by a health professional. 

“The first mass testing Crawford County did was (at Prairie Industries) due to an outbreak. The second (at the Prairie Maison/Bluff Haven nursing home) was preventative. Now, this is more preventative, for the community,” said Marc Myhre, the county’s public information officer during this pandemic. “We’ve heard a lot of people’s complaints thus far that they can’t just go get a test. This is in response to that.”

Myhre noted, the last thing Crawford County wants is to see the coronavirus circulating in the community.  With each mobile testing event, he said, the county has improved its setup and delivery. 

No further community testing is expected in the county at this time, unless public health would dictate a need for another testing site. The Prairie du Chien Correctional Institution had the National Guard on site June 16 and 17 for private testing however. 

Aside from mass testing, individual tests are averaging 15 to 20 per day for residents of the county, Riniker said. 

“I’d like to see that be 34 a day,” she stated. 

Currently, no tests are being given at any of the hospitals or clinics in the county. Patients are being referred to Gundersen or Mayo health systems in La Crosse.

Cpt. Jordan Schultz, who managed and assured quality control Friday, said his National Guard team has operated at least 50 mobile testing events across Wisconsin. With some members hailing from the 457th Chemical Company, he said this assignment was “right up our alley,” employing citizen soldiers who are trained as chemical and medical specialists. Schultz’s unit is one of about 25 teams across the state supporting local health departments and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services’ effort to increase the state’s COVID-19 testing capacity. 

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