The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s first on-campus COVID-19 testing location is now operating on an appointment basis, with at least two more sites expected to open for the fall semester.
The site, located on Henry Mall between University Avenue and Linden Drive, opened Thursday and is now testing through both walk-in and drive-through. Testing is free and unlimited regardless of symptoms, and people can expect to have an appointment within 24 to 48 hours.
Last week, Gov. Tony Evers announced $8.3 million in funding for testing on UW-Madison’s campus, in addition to nearly $18 million across the 12 other UW System universities. Chancellor Rebecca Blank said at a University Committee meeting Monday that the aid has not covered all, but “a very substantial share,” of costs for testing, which is being performed by Exact Sciences and the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.
“I’m very grateful,” Blank said. “This resolves the financial issues around testing … Making testing work is absolutely key. If you can’t test, you can’t have people on campus.”
Anyone living in a residence hall is required to undergo regular testing throughout the semester and upon arrival on campus. The university will also conduct regular, voluntary surveillance testing of up to 2,000 people each week, including employees and students living off-campus.
University spokeswoman Meredith McGlone said in an email that, when fully operational, university testing sites expect to conduct over 6,000 tests weekly. Though it currently expects results within 72 hours for tests, which are self-administered nasal swabs, it aims to have a turnaround time of 48 hours by early September, McGlone added.
Colleges and universities around the country have received nearly no cohesive guidance about reopening for the fall, let alone testing, but Dr. Nasia Safdar, an infectious disease professor, said she felt “reassured” to see UW-Madison roll out sound testing protocol in its Smart Restart reopening plan.
UW-Madison researchers are also studying the potential of a saliva test, which can allow for results within hours, not days, according to an Aug. 6 press release. Though the test has not yet been approved for clinical diagnosis, hundreds of volunteers at four sites in Madison have been able to receive results within hours, and Safdar said the tests may become feasible not too far in the future.