‘It’s kind of shifted gears’: Local pharmacy transitions from vaccine rush to COVID test spike

Fitchburg Family Pharmacy gives most COVID tests to date Wednesday

FITCHBURG, Wis. – Working alongside his employees, owner of Fitchburg Family Pharmacy Thad Schumacher is keeping as busy as ever.

“Our staff is a bunch of troopers, for sure,” Schumacher said between administering COVID-19 tests. “They work very hard to get the job done.”

Just months ago, it was vaccines keeping them on their toes.

“In the height of it, we were giving thousands of vaccines a week,” Schumacher said. “Now, it’s 10 a day or so.”

Now, as COVID-19 cases increase again, the focus has flipped.

“It has kind of switched gears back to testing, which is kind of how we started this whole thing,” he said.

About three to four weeks ago, Schumacher said the Fitchburg Family Pharmacy was averaging 10 to 15 COVID tests a day. This past week, they’ve done more than 100 a day, topping out at 244 Wednesday. That’s the most daily tests they’ve done since they began in November.

“I don’t think that’s something any of us were prepared for,” he said, adding that this is happening elsewhere, too. Dane County as a whole is seeing an increase in testing.

“In fact, testing has almost doubled from where it was two weeks ago,” said Ken Van Horn, the testing director with Public Health Madison & Dane County. “But it’s still well within our capacity in Dane County.”

It was a bit of a scramble to get enough test kits, but Schumacher said they’re now stocked and ready to go, urging tests for anyone with symptoms or recent contact with the virus.

The nearby Alliant Energy Center mass testing operation has closed, which Schumacher thinks might play into just how busy they’ve been, along with a few other factors, including a general increase in positive cases.

“That has a ripple effect in the community when someone tests positive,” he said, adding that that means more close contacts who need a test. “There’s the travel going on. And then of course, there’s just people who are worried about the variant, which is something to be worried about.”

He said that’s another reason to get the vaccine, a regular reminder given right along with the tests.

The Fitchburg Family Pharmacy is still offering free vaccines, both on site and at events within the community. Schumacher said meeting people where they’re at has provided the most success. More information on both vaccines and testing can be found on the pharmacy’s website.

“It’d be great if we had a higher vaccination rate. It would eliminate a lot of what we’re doing now,” Schumacher said. “I think until we have more people vaccinated, we’re going to be living with COVID, unfortunately.”

In the meantime, the pharmacy is prepared to stay busy.

“I don’t think it’s going to be over until we vaccinate more people,” Schumacher said.

PHMDC’s website has a list of locations to get tested for free in the Dane County and the surrounding area. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services has a statewide map on its website, as well, along with locations to get vaccinated.