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More people getting tested for COVID-19

COVID-19 at-home test kits flying off shelves
COVID-19 at-home test kits flying off shelves(.)
Published: Sep. 27, 2021 at 6:56 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - Businesses are waiting and preparing for the Biden Administration to create new COVID-19 rules, including one rule which would require employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their workers either are vaccinated or get tested weekly. The rule is still being worked on, but it is being written as testing clinics see more people come in to get tested.

7 Investigates requested the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development data showing how many private businesses would fit under that rule. The businesses are separated into two types: 1) establishments which are defined as “an economic unit that produces goods or services, usually at a single physical location, and engaged in one or predominantly one activity, and 2) firms which are defined as “a business entity, either corporate or otherwise,” and “may consist of one or several establishments.” For example, Menards Incorporated would be considered a firm, and each store would be considered an establishment.

The most recent data from this year’s first quarter shows there are 3,673 establishments and 3,349 firms. The number of employees for all of those establishments is 1,007,066 and there are 1,358,940 employees under those firms.

According to the Department of Health Services, a little more than 35% of adults age 18 or older in Wisconsin are not vaccinated. Of course, each of the different firms and establishments have different vaccination rates. However, if that 35% is applied to the existing number of businesses that have more than a hundred employees and no new people decide to get vaccinated, roughly 360,530 employees at establishments and 486,501 from firms would have to be tested weekly.

Testing sites in north-central Wisconsin are noticing changes as the fall colors turn too.

“We did notice at the start of September some numbers increasing, community members, additional community members coming to our sites, so that’s one of the reasons we have extended our hours,” Corinna Neeb, UW-Stevens Point’s emergency management specialist said.

UW-Stevens Point’s main campus saw an average of 197 come in to test a day between the end of August through last week. Its Wausau campus regularly saw 81 people and its Marshfield campus had about 17 people daily. Neeb said, unlike last year when students attended classes remotely, students are back on campus, limiting the size of the rooms they are able to use for community testing.

Both major health systems are also seeing increases. Aspirus stated Friday the number of tests it has performed has increased by 164% since Aug. 1. Marshfield Clinic conducted about 6,700 COVID-19 tests last week, about double from the month before. It noted at its peak it would perform about 10,000 tests weekly. Both health systems urge people to make an appointment to get tested for COVID-19 as staffing resources are strained in their emergency department and urgent care due to seasonal illnesses and other emergencies.

DHS data also shows an increase in testing, with daily new tests not quite reaching the peak of the outbreak last fall, but at levels similar to that of the beginning of November.

As more people get vaccinated, the number of people who would be required to test would be reduced under the Biden Administration’s expected rule. It is also looking to make COVID-19 testing more accessible through a variety of ways, including mobile testing sites and making at-home tests more affordable.

People can schedule to get a COVID-19 test through Marshfield Clinic or Aspirus online. To schedule a rapid test through one of the UW-Stevens Point campuses, click here.

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