Health officials close Iron River COVID-19 testing site early after running out of tests

Updated: July 10, 2020 06:34 PM

Health officials closed the free COVID-19 testing site at the Iron River Community Center early after running out of tests from the overwhelming community response.  

Long car lines extended outside of the community center as hundreds of Wisconsin residents waited their turn for a free COVID-19 test.

The testing started at 11 a.m. and was supposed to go until 7 p.m. but closed at around 2:00 p.m. after reaching the maximum number of tests the Wisconsin National Guard had available. No symptoms were necessary for the free testing. As people pulled up, they went through a brief screening and the test was done with a nasal swab.

"We are doing it in response to the demand from the public for additional testing sites in northern Wisconsin and also in response to the fact that there were many people from the last event in Iron River who's test results were unable to be processed," said Sara Wartman, the health director and health officer for Bayfield County Health Department.

Wartman said there were 142 tests that weren't able to get processed from the testing they did on June 18. This was a chance for those folks to get retested and for others who wanted to get tested.

"We're seeing more increases in the Northland and post fourth of July holiday so we anticipate that we're gonna see more positives from this testing event," said Wartman.

"It's been a good mission. We've been going all throughout the state so it does help the community to kind of see where they're at with the COVID outbreak and how we can populate some results at a higher level," said Michael Genders, chief warrant officer of the Wisconsin National Guard.

Recently, Bayfield County identified cases associated with a hockey event in Ashland.

Bayfield County has a total of six COVID-19 cases.Three of the cases are tied to the hockey event. In Ashland County, two of the five total cases are also associated with the hockey event.

"We continue to discourage large gatherings just given the nature of a large gathering, it's very difficult for people to socially distance," said Elizabeth Szot, the health officer for Ashland County Public Health.

Health officials said this is more of a reason to avoid large gatherings and mask up.

"Some people can be contagious up to 48 hours prior to developing symptoms so they might think that they're totally fine and be at an event and they might be contagious and infect several other people," said Szot.

On Thursday Bayfield County Health Department announced a COVID-19 exposure in Port Wing. A recent visitor to the Port Wing area came down with COVID-19 and is being hospitalized downstate. 

The health department also confirmed there was one positive patron at the Port Bar & Restaurant on July 3 and July 4. 

The health department said if you were at the Port Bar those days to monitor symptoms of COVID-19.

Health officials said this testing has been helpful in understanding the affect of COVID-19 in northern Wisconsin.

"Having these testing events informs our decision making not just in public health but with our schools and our local policy and decision makers," said Wartman.

Health officials said they plan on doing additional testing and will have details available soon.

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