UW system president Tommy Thompson announced Monday that the 22 COVID-19 surge testing sites on and near UW system campuses will stay open and continue to administer rapid result tests until at least Christmas, well past their projected close date of mid-December.
Free surge testing sites opened across all UW universities on Nov. 12, and since then more than 100,000 tests have been taken at across the 22 sites. The university system testing centers became the first set of locations in the U.S. to offer the BinaxNOW rapid results test, which provides results in just 15 minutes.
The BinaxNOW test is the first COVID-19 rapid results test that displays results directly on its testing card. However, test results are not as reliable as those from a standard PCR test since it’s an antigen test rather than a molecular test. Abbott Diagnostics Scarborough, Inc., the manufacturers of the test, received emergency use authorization from the FDA.
Initially, testing sites were set to close after about 6 weeks, but an additional 250,000 tests provided by the United States Department of Health and Human Services has given sites the opportunity to run for a longer period of time.
With many students home for the remainder of the Fall semester — as UW shifted to all-virtual instruction following Thanksgiving recess — fewer students are seeking tests, which has freed up the sites to open their doors to community members free of charge.
Community members’ tests accounted for 3,765 of the 5,493 tests — 68.5 percent— administered across the 22 sites on Dec. 4-6, as well as 348 of the 433 — or 80.4 percent — positive results.
“We are pleased to provide this service to the people of Wisconsin at this difficult time and know it is making a difference,” said UW System Board of Regents President Andrew S. Petersen.
The positivity rate across testing sites Dec. 4-6 was eight percent of the tested population. Among students, positivity rates measured out to a lower rate of six percent. In Madison specifically, these three days experienced a two percent positivity rate with only three students testing positive among the 131 who got tested.
Healthcare service provider eTrueNorth has contributed to the maintenance of UW System testing sites by providing staffing support.
Testing sites are open to UW students, faculty, staff and community members, all of whom can schedule a test here.