Expanded testing key to uncover more accurate COVID-19 numbers in La Crosse County

Experts say more testing provides more accurate data to stop COVID-19 spread and help officials decide when to open businesses
Covid Testing Capacity

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – The number of COVID-19 testing sites across Minnesota and the La Crosse area is expanding. Healthcare officials are also moving toward testing more people to help health officials slow down the spread of the virus.

Expanding COVID-19 testing is a common goal in Wisconsin.

“Right now we are able to test a number of symptomatic patients,” said Dr. Paul Molling, an infectious disease physician at Mayo Clinic Health System.

Gundersen Health System and Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse are now able to test more people than before.

“That’s a real change from where we were six weeks ago when we had testing very limited to high risk or vulnerable populations,” said Dr. Todd Kowalski, an infectious disease physician at Gundersen Health System.

Molling said healthcare officials are closer to reaching a key population.

“Ultimately it would be nice to get to the patients who are asymptomatic so we can really truly tell, what is the true COVID rate in our communities,” Molling said.

Testing is a key tool to help health experts stop the spread of the virus. Kowalski said the capacity to test is the time it takes to perform one and get a result. It comes down to resources.

“There are machines that could do 1,000 tests per day, but if you don’t have the right reagents, supplies to do that, then that type of capacity is really irrelevant in terms of applying the test to a particular patient,” he said.

La Crosse County hasn’t had as big of a spike in cases. However, things can change fast, just look at Green Bay.

“A couple of weeks ago one would have said, ‘Very low numbers of cases,'” Kowalski said. “Over the last week because of some outbreaks in some specific settings, they have risen to, I believe, close to the highest rate per capita in Wisconsin.”

Nearly 150 employees and family members who tested positive were tied to one meatpacking plant. It’s hard to stop a problem when officials are flying blind.

“You have to know where the virus is if you are going to isolate and limit its spread,” Kowalski said.

These gentlemen say social distancing is helping in the La Crosse area.

“That’s apparent in what it’s done to the curve,” Kowalski said. “That’s apparent when one walks on the streets.”

Health facilities are doing okay as a result of people listening to expert advice.

“It makes our job easier on the healthcare side,” Molling said.

Healthcare officials say people who believe they need a test need to contact their healthcare provider.