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Here's how to get tested for COVID-19 in Milwaukee

The early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic were marked by massive testing shortages -- even patients who were displaying symptoms of the coronavirus had a difficult time getting tested. Thankfully, those issues have been addressed: Testing sites have sprung up all over the state, and free testing is now available even for people who are not displaying symptoms of the virus.

That's welcome news, because a confluence of factors could be accelerating the spread of the virus. Last month, the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down Gov. Tony Evers' safer at home order, reopening bars and non-essential businesses in much of the state. Since then, new coronavirus hot spots have emerged around the city, especially in predominantly Latino neighborhoods on the city's South Side. On Friday, the state posted a record number of reported new cases: 733 of them, along with 18 deaths. City officials are encouraging anybody from a neighborhood with a higher than average infection rate to get tested.

And, of course, the enormous protests in response to the murder of George Floyd are putting hundreds of Wisconsinites in close proximity with each other, which could further transmission. (Experts advise that all protesters should wear masks, not only to protect themselves, but to lower the risk of transmitting to others). If you need to get tested, here's how to do it.

How can I find a testing center?

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services maintains a website with a list of community testing sites. There are currently more than a dozen of them in Milwaukee. The list changes often is updated daily. Patients can also call their doctors to get tested.

One prominent option: The Wisconsin National Guard conducts drive-thru and walk-up testing from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday - Saturday, at 2701 S. Chase Ave. No appointment is needed.

What should I expect?

That varies from location to location. "Each site may have different requirements," according to the DHS. "Some sites may ask you to stay in your car. Other sites will screen you before you come indoors. Many sites will require an appointment before you arrive in order to ensure they’ve collected your contact and insurance information."

Who should get tested?

Anybody who has symptoms of the virus or may have been exposed to a carrier of the virus. "If you develop symptoms such as fever, cough, and/or difficulty breathing, and have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19, stay home and call your healthcare provider. If you do not have a healthcare provider, call 2-1-1 to find the nearest testing center," according to Milwaukee County's COVID-19 website. "Older patients and individuals who have severe underlying medical conditions or are immunocompromised should contact their healthcare provider early, even if their illness is mild. If you have severe symptoms, such as persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to arouse, or bluish lips or face, contact your healthcare provider or emergency room and seek care immediately."