Gov. Evers announces $1B statewide effort to support coronavirus testing, contact tracing efforts

MADISON, Wis. — More than a billion dollars will be used to help provide COVID-19 testing, contact tracing supplies and emergency operations throughout Wisconsin.

Gov. Tony Evers announced the effort on Tuesday. It’s funded by $1.17 billion in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act dollars.

The state allocated around $260 million for testing efforts and $75 million for contact tracing.

“Our statewide approach to containing the spread of COVID-19 will continue with robust testing and contact tracing efforts in all corners of Wisconsin, resources that ensure our critical workers have the equipment they need to do their jobs safely, and direct investments in local communities and health providers,” Evers said in a news release.

Wisconsin’s statewide testing program ensures all residents can be tested for the virus regardless of location, income or connection to an existing health care system. Right now, testing capacity stands around 13,000 per day in the state. There are 52 active labs analyzing test kits, the release said.

Around $202 million will provide COVID-19 test collection kits to Wisconsin hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, public health departments and others at no cost to ensure that everyone who needs a test receives a test.

Around $45 million dollars will fund a testing pilot program, which would allow local public health officials and health systems to conduct coronavirus testing in community and occupational settings.

Some of the funds will also support contact tracing programs in Wisconsin.  The program involves interviewing people who test positive for COVID-19 and alert others they’ve been in contact with recently.

The state’s program will pair newly obtained analytics software with the efforts of state employees.  Currently, more than 200 current state employees have been reassigned from typical duties to make these crucial phone calls.  The state plans to hire additional limited term employees in the next few weeks to increase the scale of the contract tracing program, the release said.

Around $50 million will be available to local public health departments to hire additional staff to perform disease investigation, contact tracing and monitoring, the release said.

The state plans to spend $150 million on personal protective equipment and $40 million toward the purchase of additional ventilators.

It’s also providing the means needed to keep the Milwaukee Alternate Care Facility open. This location would help treat positive patients should there be a surge in hospitalization rates.

The state is allocating around $445 million to Wisconsin hospital systems and communities prepared to handle a surge of COVID-19 patients over the summer and fall.

“Wisconsin’s Safer At Home order may have ended, but our all-out war on this virus has not,” Evers said.

With this announcement and the $75 million announced for small businesses on Monday, there is still around $600 million in federal funding left for Evers to spend.