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More than $1 billion in the works for COVID-19 response

A robust $1 billion statewide effort has been announced to support COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, acquisition of needed supplies, emergency operations and resources for local communities throughout Wisconsin. The effort is funded by $1.17 billion in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act dollars.

Recognizing that testing and contact tracing are essential to Wisconsin’s efforts to contain the spread of the virus, the state has allocated approximately $260 million for testing efforts and $75 million for contact tracing.

“Our public health experts continue to recommend that folks stay home as much as possible, limit travel, wear a face mask in public and practice good hygiene,” said Gov. Tony Evers. “I also urge anyone who needs a test to go get tested at one of our community testing sites, and help protect your community and family from this virus.”

Wisconsin’s statewide testing program ensures Wisconsinites can be tested for the COVID-19 virus, regardless of location, income or connection to an existing healthcare system. The $260 million program includes procuring COVID- 19 tests, and ensuring those tests can be processed quickly and accurately.

At the beginning of March 2020, Wisconsin’s lab capacity for COVID-19 tests was at zero. Currently, Wisconsin’s testing capacity stands at more than 13,000 tests per day, with 52 active labs to process and analyze the test kits. Wisconsin’s goal for testing capacity is 85,000 tests per week.

The cost estimate includes making the 85,000 tests available at no charge to patients and includes the cost of the specimen collection materials, diagnostic services and shipping. To support these efforts, the Wisconsin National Guard is operating 25 field testing teams working throughout the state, to provide community and targeted field testing.

Everyone who needs a test should receive a test. The state’s testing program will spend $202 million to provide COVID-19 test collection kits to Wisconsin hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, local public health departments and others, at no cost, to ensure tests are given.

The grants will provide $30,000 in funding to 96 local and tribal public health departments (approximately $3 million), to update preparedness plans to ensure Wisconsin communities, schools and businesses are prepared to support testing efforts into the fall.

Local testing pilot programs will infuse $45 million in funding to local public health departments, occupational health providers, home health agencies and health systems, to conduct COVID-19 testing in congregate, community and occupational settings. This program will incentivize testing, by providing eligible providers $35 per COVID-19 test administered to a Wisconsin resident, and will run through Aug. 31.

Hand in hand with Wisconsin’s state COVID-19 testing program, is Wisconsin’s statewide contact tracing program. The purpose of this contact tracing program, is to conduct interviews with people who test positive for COVID-19 and alert individuals who have been in recent contact with those who have tested positive, that they may have been exposed and to counsel them to quarantine during the period they may develop symptoms, and get tested if they are symptomatic.

The state’s contact tracing program will pair newly obtained analytics software, with the labor of individual state employees, to reach out to a COVID-19 patient’s recent contacts.

Of the $75 million, up to $50 million will be available to local and tribal public health departments to hire additional staff to perform disease investigation, contact tracing and monitoring. The remaining funds will go toward technology resources and hiring additional state staff to supplement local efforts, to quickly and effectively conduct interviews.

Early on in the COVID-19 outbreak, Wisconsin identified a need for specific kinds and quantities of personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect heathcare providers, first responders and others from contracting COVID-19. The state took early action to procure the types and amounts of PPE needed to provide maximum protection for Wisconsinites.

This action ranged from requesting PPE from the strategic national stockpile (SNS) to working with public and private sector partners to identify additional sources of PPE for acquisition. The acquisition of PPE is estimated to cost $150 million. After acquisition, this PPE equipment is distributed to recipients throughout Wisconsin, including healthcare facilities, first responders and local governments.

The state has also allocated $40 million toward the procurement of ventilators. Currently, there are only investigational drugs to treat COVID-19 and no vaccine to prevent the virus.

There is a great deal of concern that lifting of the Safer at Home order, may result in a surge of COVID-19 related patients. Additionally, there is uncertainty regarding the resurgence of COVID-19 in the fall. Approximately $445 million is allocated to ensure Wisconsin hospital systems and communities, are prepared to handle a surge of COVID-19 patients over the summer and fall.