Nursing homes expected to begin facility-wide COVID-19 testing this week

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(WSAW) -- By the end of the month, the Department of Health Services hopes to have all residents and staff at nursing home and long-term care facilities in the state tested for COVID-19.

Some nursing homes are expecting to start testing this week, though the state's process outlines that it plans to stagger testing for facilities in the same jurisdiction.

DHS Secretary-designee, Andrea Palm said in the COVID-19 media call Monday that some facilities have told them that they need help with additional staffing in order to do proper testing. One ongoing testing operation at a long-term care facility in Tomahawk is teaming up with the Wisconsin National Guard.

Other facilities are just waiting for materials to come in to test residents and staff regardless of symptoms.

"Obviously, this is voluntary," Palm said. "If folks do not wish to be tested, they can certainly decline to do so, but it is our, certainly, public health recommendation that testing is universal so that we can truly understand whether the residents and staff are safe."

Sunday, Rennes Health and Rehab Center in Weston confirmed to NewsChannel 7 that one of its employees tested positive for COVID-19. The center's public information officer said they do not have concerns that the virus has spread to others in the facility at this time.

"That agency has been doing a good job all along with good infection control practices, monitoring employees, social distancing, wearing masks, and they have already planned on having testing of all of their residents as well as their staff this week," Judy Burrows, Marathon County Health Department public information officer said.

The center told NewsChannel 7 the employee has not been at the facility since Wednesday, but they have quarantined all units for the time being and are working with the health department.

"We are working with the individual that does have COVID disease to help find out, where was that person, who was that person with because there may be some close contacts that we want to follow up with," Burrows said.

Burrows encourages people to answer their phones, even if the number is unfamiliar. She said that could be a contact tracer attempting to get a hold of them to say they have been exposed to the virus.