UW Oshkosh opens new COVID-19 testing site

Sophia Voight, Assistant News Editor

UW Oshkosh opened a new COVID-19 testing center at the Culver Family Welcome Center Nov. 9 with new Abbott BinaxNOW rapid antigen tests that provide results in 15 minutes to help combat the surge of cases in the region.

UW System campuses will serve as the first “surge testing” sites in the nation for the new rapid-results COVID-19 tests, UW System President Tommy Thompson announced at a press conference Nov. 6.

Federal surge testing provides additional temporary federal support to areas that are experiencing a spike in coronavirus cases.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is partnering with UW schools to set up new COVID-19 testing centers.

This is the first time a testing center will be utilizing rapid Abbott BinaxNOW tests, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said at the press conference.

The UW System received 250,000 BinaxNOW antigen tests, Chancellor Andy Leavitt said in a campuswide email.

“The testing centers on the UW campuses will be the first of their kind in the country to conduct free surge testing with the BinaxNOW tests,” Leavitt said in the email.

The new Culver testing center will be operated by eTrueNorth under contract with the federal government.

The surge testing site will be open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.

The center will be open for a minimum of four to six weeks and administer about 800 tests per day to combat the surge of cases in the area.

The surge testing will be available to everyone in the area but will primarily serve first responders, the Oshkosh school district and the university, Leavitt said at the press conference.

“The first place we would like to target is K-12,” Leavitt said. “We are going to be testing faculty and staff from the Oshkosh Area School district and their families once a week.”

BinaxNOW tests will be available at no cost to students, staff, faculty and their families by appointment through doineedacovid19test.com.

You will not need to be experiencing symptoms or have had contact with someone who has COVID-19 to get the BinaxNOW test at the new rapid testing center.

People who receive a rapid test will be asked to wait outside or in their car until the results come in.

Those who test positive for COVID-19 will be asked to take a PCR test to confirm the results of the rapid test.

This kind of surge testing is being implemented across the county to help areas that are experiencing high positivity rates of COVID-19 target their cases and begin to drive down the spike.

The U.S. has reported over 100,000 new COVID-19 cases every day since Nov. 4.

One in every 462 people in the U.S. tested positive for COVID-19 last week, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

The Oshkosh-Neenah area was listed by the New York Times as having one of the worst outbreaks in the nation for several weeks.

Winnebago County currently has a 17% positivity rate of COVID-19 with 1,310 positive cases, according to the county health department’s weekly COVID-19 data summary.

COVID-19 deaths in the county remain on the rise as a quarter of the 67 deaths in the county occured over the last two weeks.

Hospitalization for the coronavirus also at a record high with 154 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in the Fox Valley.

However, cases at UWO have remained consistently low over the past weeks. The university has a 3.4% positivity rate as of Tuesday.

“Wisconsin has unfortunately seen one of the worst spikes in the nation,” Adams said. “But if we can extrapolate the 3% positivity rate to the rest of the state, the rest of the nation, then we can reopen.”

Leavitt said the low positivity rate on campus is thanks to the students taking the virus seriously.

“You don’t have a 3% positivity rate without them masking, social distancing and doing all the things that we’re asking them to do.”

Secretary-Designee for the Wisconsin Department of Health Services Andrea Palm said surge testing will help communities get a better understanding of the spread in their area.

“Testing alone doesn’t stop the spread, it is the action that you take to understand what to do next,” Palm said. “What you do after you receive that result of that test is really what helps stop the spread.”

Having the ability to turn around rapid results is an important part of Wisconsin’s strategy to slow the spread of the virus, and Palm said with the new help from the federal government, Wisconsin now has the capacity to test anyone who needs a COVID-19 test.

Palm added that increasing testing and quarantining positive cases will help get the state on track to stopping the spread of the virus.

“It is how we turn the corner on this outbreak and get us back to a place in the state of Wisconsin where we are not breaking daily records for new cases and hospitalizations,” she said.

Adams said an aggressive testing plan for symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals is the most effective way to slow the spread of the virus.

“By identifying the positive individuals and taking appropriate measures to isolate them, we can contain the virus and stop the spread in its tracks,” he said.

The Culver Center testing site will complement the testing site in the Albee Hall gym. UWO residence hall students will continue mandatory weekly testing at the Albee testing center.

The Albee Hall testing center is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. by appointment through the MyPrevea app.

The Albee testing center will expand its hours Nov. 23 and 24 to 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. The testing center will be open 8 a.m. to noon on Nov. 25 to expand testing the week before Thanksgiving break.

The Albee testing center will be closed Nov. 26 and Nov. 27.

“From the moment students started to move-in to our residence halls in early September, UW Oshkosh has been testing for COVID-19 on the Oshkosh campus,” Leavitt said in the email. “I am proud of the work so many of you have done to ensure the success of our testing program and to assist in the quick setup of the new site.”