Public Health talks other COVID-19 testing options following temporary Alliant Energy Center site closure, slowdown

MADISON, Wis. – Following a temporary closure and slowdown at the Alliant Energy Center’s COVID-19 testing site Tuesday afternoon, Public Health Madison & Dane County recommended other options for those seeking tests that day.

In general, the health agency is asking people to consider the time, place and reason they’re getting tested.

“A lot of people do think the Alliant Energy Center is the first place to get tested,” Director of Testing Ken Van Horn said. “We always know that the first day of the week is a busy day, then today we had the added complication of our electronic registration system just didn’t work for about the first hour we were here today, and that caused a pretty big backup.”

PHMDC staff had to use a backup paper registration system as a downed computer system caused issues for testing sites statewide, Van Horn said.

Only those who had COVID-19 symptoms, had been in contact with someone with a confirmed case or worked in a populated place, such as a grocery store, were able to get tested once the Alliant Energy Center’s gates reopened.

In general, those are the groups PHMDC recommends get tested. It’s not recommended for frequent, routine testing or to ensure that someone is OK ahead of a gathering.

“Testing only tells you if you had COVID on the day you were tested,” the PHMDC website reads. “A negative test does not necessarily mean it is safe to gather with others.”

According to PHMDC, tests are in limited supply and cost $100, which is funded through federal CARES dollars.

“We have to do our best to make sure the resources go to people who need them,” Van Horn said. “Folks who are coming just for peace-of-mind testing, that’s a less appropriate use of this resource.”

PHMDC lists other options in the community for testing, such as the South Madison Community Test Site and healthcare providers.

SSM Health has a virtual evaluation for patients experiencing symptoms, with a spokesperson saying in a statement that those deemed at risk “will be connected with an SSM Health provider for details on testing and any appropriate treatments.”

Last week, SSM Health was averaging about 700 tests per day. This week, that number is nearly 1,000 per day, “which is the maximum number of tests our equipment can process in a 24-hour period,” said SSM Vice President of Laboratory Services Jeff Shadick. “Our testing focus continues to support our Wisconsin Region hospital and clinics spread across the state where there continues to be community spread and additional outbreaks.”

UW Health asks its patients to call if they have symptoms, and they’ll take care of testing, according to a spokesperson. For patients without symptoms, UW Health recommends the Alliant Energy Center.

“If you want a test, we’re here for that,” Van Horn said. “You just have to make sure you come at a smart time and we’ll do our best to make sure the system is running and that we don’t have a lot of days that are like today.”

Van Horn says the busiest day of the week is Tuesday, the first day of the week they’re open. The busiest times are usually the first hour, so he recommends coming either midmorning or midafternoon and later in the week, if possible.

The Alliant Energy Center testing site is open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.