The Evers administration has announced a $1.17 billion statewide effort to support the state’s pandemic response. It clarifies how money from the federal CARES Act is being allocated in Wisconsin for things like community testing, according to Department of Health Services Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk.

“Recognizing that this is the funding that we have until December 31 of 2020,” Willems Van Dijk said. “And knowing, particularly in the fall, we may face a surge of COVID-19 patients if this epidemic follows a similar course to prior epidemics, we want to make sure that we have funds in reserve for any future surge that emerges.”

Community testing is a role currently largely being fulfilled by the Wisconsin National Guard, headed by Adjutant General Paul Knapp.

“We’re in a lot of different discussions on a daily basis, projecting out additional community testing sites across the state,” Knapp said on Tuesday. The National Guard is currently operating 25 field testing teams. “In terms of the community testing sites, we’re always looking for areas where we can assist the local authorities, wherever they might have a requirement.”

“It really has been in the last month or so, as we’ve built our testing capacity and had this great partnership with the National Guard, that we’ve been able to initiate these community testing sites,” Willems Van Dijk said. “They’re both giving us really valuable data about the prevalence of the virus in communities across the state, and also helping identify patients who need to be in isolation and their contacts in quarantine.”

But as Willems Van Dijk pointed out, the Guard can’t do that indefinitely. “We know that National Guard won’t be able to continue to provide this service for two years of the pandemic, if it takes that long to get to a vaccine,” she said.

The state has allocated approximately $260 million dollars for testing efforts, and another $75 million for contact tracing. Wisconsin’s goal is capacity for 85,000 tests per week.

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