Who gets tested and when? Wisconsin guide to coronavirus testing

Published: Mar. 27, 2020 at 11:27 AM CDT
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Lab capacity for COVID-19 testing in the state has increased, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

Wisconsin is receiving nearly 2,000 coronavirus test results per day, DHS says. The agency received results from about 40 clinical and reference labs.

"The number of hospital-based laboratories conducting COVID-19 testing continues to grow," says DHS.

The state says between three percent and four percent of tests have come back positive during the week of March 23.

The State Laboratory of Hygiene in Madison and the Milwaukee Health Department Laboratory are prioritizing COVID-19 testing in a tiered system. The top two tiers get priority testing at the labs in Milwaukee and Madison.

Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, headache, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea. Do you have symptoms?

for more information.

Tests in the other tiers will be sent to other labs, meaning results could take longer to process.

DHS describes the tiers as follows:


Patients who are critically ill and receiving ICU level care with unexplained viral pneumonia or respiratory failure


Patients who are residents of long-term care facilities or other high consequence congregate settings (e.g. prisons or jails), with unexplained fever OR signs/symptoms of acute respiratory illness


Post-mortem testing for people who died of unknown causes, if COVID-19 testing would influence infection control interventions or inform a public health response


Hospitalized (non-ICU) patients with unexplained fever AND signs/symptoms of acute respiratory illness


Health care workers and first responders with unexplained fever AND signs/symptoms of acute respiratory illness, regardless of hospitalization


Essential staff in high consequence congregate settings (e.g. correctional officers) with unexplained fever AND signs/symptoms of acute respiratory illness, regardless of hospitalization


Patient is in an outpatient setting and meets criteria for influenza testing. This includes individuals with co-morbid conditions including diabetes, COPD, congestive heart failure, age >50, immunocompromised hosts among others


Health care workers with acute respiratory symptoms (e.g. rhinorrhea, congestion, sore throat, cough) without fever


Other patients, as directed by public health or infection control authorities (e.g. community surveillance or public health investigations)


Patients without symptoms

Patients with mild respiratory symptoms only who are not health care workers

Wisconsin DHS and CDC continue to recommend not testing asymptomatic individuals for COVID-19 who may have been exposed to the disease. Individuals with possible exposure should be recommended to self-quarantine and monitor their symptoms. COVID-19 testing should only be used for making a diagnosis in patients with a clinical syndrome suggestive of the disease.

Wisconsin is following Centers for Disease Control guidelines on priority of testing.

to track the outbreak in Wisconsin.