Wisconsin DHS ending its Community Testing Support Program in April

When the program ends pharmacies can still test for COVID but people will have to pay for tests
Published: Mar. 29, 2023 at 5:42 PM CDT
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WHITTENBERG, Wis. (WSAW) - The Wisconsin Department of Health Services is winding down its Community Testing Support Program. The program helps community-based organizations, local and tribal health departments, pharmacies, and healthcare providers across the state to increase access to free COVID-19 testing by supporting COVID-19 testing sites.

Since DHS began its Community Testing Support Program in 2021, nearly three million tests have been administered. “Testing demand is definitely rising a little bit right now I would say. It’s been pretty low, over the past even year it’s been fairly low,” said Shane Resch, the vice president, and pharmacist at Gwidt Pharmacy Inc.

Gwidt Pharmacy in Wittenberg is one of the testing locations supported by the DHS’s Community Testing Program, but lately, not many people have been coming in for COVID-19 testing.

”I think part of it, not only testing as far as cases that are out there, but I think just fatigue in general from people. You’re not going to run in every time you get the sniffles anymore like people were initially,” said Resch.

The DHS recently announced its Community Testing Program will end on April 15.

”I think it’s a pretty good time to sunset it at this point. Again, the demand has sort of waned. About a year ago, I would say is when we saw sort of the highest demand. Right about, it was 2021-2022, December- January is when we saw the highest demand,” said Resch.

Once the program ends, pharmacies can still test for COVID-19, but people will have to pay for their tests.

”That’s the big issue. There are still testing supplies out there. The COVID connect website, which is basically how you put information in for people saying positive or negative tests. That is still active, and we can still access that, it’s just that the reimbursement isn’t there anymore,” said Resch.

The ending of the DHS’s program comes as the federal public health emergency is set to end on May 11.

In addition to community testing sites, Wisconsin households can access testing by:

  • Ordering self-tests from the Say Yes! Covid Test Program. Wisconsin households are eligible to receive two test kits with a total of 10 tests per month, while supplies last.
  • Ordering one box of self-tests per household per month, containing four tests, through the federal government while supplies last.
  • Using private health insurance or Medicare to order eight tests per covered person per month.
  • Purchasing over-the-counter COVID-19 home tests at local pharmacies or retail stores.
  • Contacting the local and/or tribal health department to see where no-cost self-tests may be available in their communities.