Evers Announces Testing Goals

In a Monday announcement, the governor said the state would provide more resources to long-term care facilities like nursing homes and provide pop-up community testing sites around the state.

By Will Kenneally

May 4, 2020

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Gov. Tony Evers

Gov. Tony Evers during a May 4, 2020 briefing.

The Evers administration is pushing for more Wisconsinites to receive COVID-19 tests in an effort to open the state quickly.

The governor set goals Monday to provide free testing at long-term care facilities like nursing homes and to deploy state resources to track outbreaks at workplaces. He also said the state would work to increase the number of state-sponsored community testing sites where testing might not otherwise be readily available.

“Everyone in the state that needs a test should be tested, and through the Badger Bounce Back Plan, we’re taking a comprehensive approach to make sure that’s the case,” Gov. Tony Evers said.

Wisconsin is not prepared however, to provide testing for all residents according to state epidemiologist Dr. Ryan Westergaard. He said at a Monday briefing that testing should be limited to those who experience symptoms or those who have had close contact with a COVID-19 case.

“We want to start with people who have any symptoms, even very mild symptoms,” Westergaard said. “If and when we find them, we want to draw a circle around them and test asymptomatic people in their networks or in their community.”

“The message is that you have a very low threshold, very mild symptoms of a respiratory illness…people should look into getting tested,” he added.

Evers also announced Monday the state acquired a sanitation device that could clean N-95 masks. The governor used the availability of personal protective equipment as one of the criteria necessary to move forward in his plan to reopen the state.

“Access to personal protective equipment and testing materials is a critical, critical component of my Badger bounce-back plan and a key part of getting the state in a position where we can safely and steadily get back to our Wisconsin way of life,” Evers said.

Supreme Court Lawsuit

Evers responded to the ongoing legal battle challenging his administration’s “Safer at Home” order, saying he hoped the state Supreme Court would make the right decision in the case. The conservative-leaning court will hear oral arguments Tuesday in the suit brought by legislative Republicans, who allege the governor’s health secretary needs legislative input for such an order.

“The Wisconsin Supreme Court is the court of last resort, so whatever decision they make will be binding,” said Ryan Nilsestuen, the governor’s chief legal counsel. “Why this lawsuit is so reckless and dangerous is because there is no recourse from whatever decision the court makes.”

Nilsestuen has said that if the court rules against the order, Wisconsin would likely see different approaches by each of Wisconsin’s 72 counties to contain the virus.

In their suit, the Republican plaintiffs asked the Supreme Court to allow six days for the Legislature and the administration to work through a collaborative rule-making process. Nilsestuen said that process, though expedited, could take more than 20 days for a rule to take effect.

Evers is also expected to meet with Republican leaders Monday afternoon to discuss bipartisan response legislation to the COVID-19 pandemic. He said he was “interested in hearing what their plan is and seeing where there is common ground.”

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