Worries about testing shortage rise as National Guard deployment at community testing sites ends on Saturday

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT)  — Some people are having a difficult time getting COVID-19 rapid tests, and the difficulty is expected to increase as the National Guard ends its deployment with community testing sites on Saturday.

Sarah Schultz and her family began having headaches and fevers — symptoms of COVID-19 — soon after their close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID.

“At that point, my husband and I picked up the kids and we figured you know, let’s go get tested,” Schultz said.

But getting tested was not that easy. The Schultzes would have to wait up to 4 days to find an appointment.

“You know, you’re looking at what, three weeks almost of my kids being home if they tested positive,” Schultz said.

Schultz called Spence Elementary School, where a representative directed her to the Hogan Administrative building to get tested.

“And they even warned me it might be a little bit of a wait, but I don’t know how we got lucky. We’re just able to get in,” Schultz said.

The schools were the only reason she was able to get a test quickly, she said, adding, “If my kids didn’t go to school, I feel like I would still be lost right now.”

She isn’t the only one struggling.

“The requests for testing are greater than the availability is of testing, even through health care,” said Paula Silha, health education manager at the La Crosse County Health Department.

Already long wait times are expected to increase after the National Guard closes its last community testing site on Saturday.

“It’s a hard place to be in,” said Silha, who expressed concern that testing shortages will increase when the National Guard leaves.

“I think people have to plan ahead,” Silha said.

And without tests, many people are in the dark.

“Who’s healthy, who’s not, who can go by who, who can’t,” Schultz said. “I just need those test results so we can continue on or take the precautions to keep everyone safe as well.”

Health-are workers are stretched thin, Silha said.

“They’re doing as much testing as they can because of staffing issues,” she said.

The department’s main focus is getting people vaccinated.

“We really encourage people to get your booster, get your vaccination if you’re approved. That’s the clear path out of the pandemic,” Silha said.

In the meantime, the Schultzes are grateful the La Crosse School District provided testing.

“It’s frustrating as a parent, but you know, I feel like my kids are in good hands. They’re doing the best they can,” Schultz said.

The county health department is in talks with COVID testing vendors, but no decision has been made and officials are unsure when that will happen. People can find testing sites near them at https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/covid-19/testing.htm

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