Some of the places to get a free COVID-19 test in Milwaukee are about to change. Locations at Custer Stadium on the north side and the UMOS parking lot on the south side will close by Oct. 17, as the Wisconsin National Guard is ending most of its coronavirus deployment in the area.
Instead, by Oct. 19, the main testing site will a drive-thru station at Miller Park in the Miller Parking Lot — east of the stadium by the Tailgate House.
Mayor Tom Barrett says the location will be able to administer 2,000 tests per day. He says one reason for the change is winter is coming.
"Just logistically, for weather reasons, Custer and UMOS become more difficult. We cannot appropriately weatherize those sites to protect staff and residents,” Barrett says.
The Miller Park site will be weatherized. And, you don't have to live in Milwaukee to get tested there. For testing information, call 211 or visit TestUpMKE.
Barrett says two smaller locations — the Milwaukee Health Department's Northwest Health Center, located at 7630 W. Mill Rd., and the Southside Health Center, at 1639 S. 23rd St. — will open by Oct. 12, serving up to 400 people a day per site. These two sites will have drive-thru testing.
Barrett says put together, the three new sites will be able to serve more people than at Custer and UMOS.
The mayor says another key goal — testing without barriers — won't change. "This means the testing will remain free of charge, accessible without an appointment and available for those who are currently not displaying COVID-19 symptoms," he says.
But Barrett says the city especially wants to see people who have been exposed to coronavirus patients or who have symptoms of the disease.
A mix of health care workers from the city, Milwaukee County and part-timers hired from the private sector will staff the new locations, after the National Guard provides training.
The changes for testing in Milwaukee come as Medical College of Wisconsin President and CEO Dr. John Raymond says he worries the surge in COVID-19 cases elsewhere in Wisconsin could at least partly make it to the Milwaukee area.
"Two weeks ago, we talked about Dane County as being very similar to our regions in the southeast in that there was a very slow rise in cases and ICU utilization, and not an exponential growth. That changed about a week ago,” Raymond says.
There are also 22 other COVID-19 testing sites in Milwaukee County, including at a few pharmacies, community health centers and hospitals or privately-owned clinics.