National Guard brings community testing to Oneida County
By Eileen Persike
The first car in line for a free COVID-19 test Thursday morning at Rhinelander’s James Williams Middle School arrived three hours before the community testing event was scheduled to begin. A half hour before the announced 11 a.m. start, the Wisconsin National Guard and staff from the Oneida County Health Department began filling out paperwork and ushering cars through the process. The number of vehicles in the line remained steady.
There are 25 National Guard teams that have received training on how to conduct the nasal swab tests. The team that tested people in Minocqua May 20 and in Rhinelander May 21 is not a medical unit. The members were drawn from different units across the state and trained by Exact Sciences, the company that supplies the tests. Officer in Command of Team 20, Harrison Yi, said the guard transports the tests to the Exact Sciences lab in Madison daily, “so they can turn around and give people the results in 3-5 days.”
Yi said the experience has been positive for the guard, with cooperation from a variety of county departments.
“We’ve experienced a lot of positive feedback and support from every county we have been to,” he said. “That includes the highway department, as well, that supplies the cones, signage, stop signs – everything we need. It’s the little things that you might not think about, but the things that make a successful event.”
As of May 21, more than 600 National Guard soldiers and airmen have established a number of testing sites in 41 of the state’s 72 counties. More than 58,000 specimens have been collected statewide.
Oneida County Health Director Linda Conlon said community testing will give public health departments increased insight into how widespread the virus is in the area. Approximately 150 people were tested in Minocqua Wednesday.