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Wisconsin Guard conducting mobile testing around state

Wisconsin National Guard Soldiers and Airmen talk with a staff member of the Orchard Manor long-term care facility in Lancaster April 25, 2020, about the importance of safely collecting specimens to test residents and staff  for COVID-19.

Wisconsin National Guard Soldiers and Airmen talk with a staff member of the Orchard Manor long-term care facility in Lancaster April 25, 2020, about the importance of safely collecting specimens to test residents and staff for COVID-19.

MADISON, Wis. – Eleven specimen collection teams from the Wisconsin National Guard are operating across Wisconsin to increase the state’s COVID-19 testing capacity.

More than 300 Soldiers and Airmen established mobile testing sites at locations ranging from correctional facilities and health clinics to private businesses and community-based testing sites. The teams are supporting local health departments and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services

Multiple specimen collection sites are operating in Milwaukee County and there is a site at the Kenosha County Detention Center.

In Brown County, two teams are on-site at a food processing facility and prepared to take on additional missions.

A community-based mobile testing site began operations April 29 in Baraboo, and another team is to assist in Buffalo County beginning later this week. The Guard anticipates additional requests for assistance elsewhere around the state.

From April 24-27, a Guard team tested more than 1,000 staff and inmates at the Dane County Jail in Madison. The Guard also completed two specimen collection missions April 25 at a senior living facility in Lancaster and a seasonal staff dormitory in Lake Delton.

The Wisconsin National Guard initially had three specimen collection teams operating before mobilizing an additional eight teams and 225 troops last week.

Guard teams completed specimen collection missions earlier this month at a senior living facility in Sheboygan County, where they collected more than 150 specimens from staff and residents. Another team tested more than 950 staff and inmates at the Milwaukee County House of Corrections.

Carol Schwartz, the administrator at the Orchard Manor senior living facility in Grant County, was grateful for the Wisconsin National Guard’s support testing at her facility in Lancaster April 25.

“It’s been great,” she said. “We’re just extremely pleased to have the help because it’s more than our staff can handle all at once while caring for the residents.”

Pfc. Alexander Spring, of the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s 457th Chemical Company and a member of the specimen collection team that assisted in Grant County, was glad to help.

“It’s definitely a good feeling to not only be able to do my job, but to help people who really do need it,” he said. “ ... We’re fully trained to do this task as well as keep everyone as safe as possible.”

Sondra Mixdorf, the director of nurses at the facility, welcomed the Guard’s efforts.

“We appreciate them being here,” she said. “It’s kind of a daunting task, and to think about doing that without your support would have just been a lot.”

As of April 28, Wisconsin National Guard teams had collected nearly 3,200 specimens statewide.

Maj. Matthew Wunderlin contributed to this report.

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