COVID Testing (copy)

Joseph Zbaracki, a resident physician with Prevea Health, performs a COVID-19 test in July at its drive-up facility at 617 W. Clairemont Ave. in Eau Claire.

UW-Eau Claire and UW-Stout will begin offering COVID-19 tests to students, faculty and staff and the Eau Claire and Menomonie communities at large, both universities announced Wednesday.

UW-Eau Claire will offer free antigen testing to asymptomatic students, faculty and staff and their dependents, the university said in a news release. On-campus testing for employees and students began Thursday.

The UW System-wide new testing initiative is in response to the virus’ steady uptick in Wisconsin since September, UW-Eau Claire said. There will be about 15,000 tests available for asymptomatic people on the Eau Claire and Barron County campuses, as well as the community, through the UW System’s partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

UW-Eau Claire is working with the Eau Claire City-County Health Department on a testing site for community members, which it plans to announce soon.

Antigen tests can rapidly test for COVID-19, and typically use a nasal or throat swab. Test results can be available in an hour or less, according to the FDA.

PCR tests, or molecular tests, are more accurate but typically take longer to return results, according to the FDA. The test is typically done using a nasal or throat swab.

UW-Eau Claire began antigen testing in September for students living on-campus and in three university housing facilities off-campus. It will continue that testing regimen, which was expanded in October to include students living off-campus whose university routine takes them into the community, according to UW-Eau Claire. (As of Tuesday, almost 12,000 UW-EC student tests had been taken at a testing site at McPhee Physical Education Center.)

UW-Stout will also offer free antigen testing — a self-administered light nasal swab with results in 15 minutes — to the community starting Friday, also through its partnership with the UW System and the federal DHS.

The UW-Stout testing site will be at the West Gym, on the ground floor of the Sports and Fitness Center, at the southwest corner of Third Street East and 13th Avenue East. Community members should follow the signs for the appropriate entrance. Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday and from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday. The program is anticipated to run for six weeks or until test supplies run out, according to UW-Stout.

Tests will be available to community members age 5 and older.

If someone tests positive with the rapid-result test, a free PCR test will be administered at the testing site to confirm. The test results from a second test will be available within a few days, according to UW-Stout.

Community members should register for a test at www.doineedacovid19test.com. For parking details and other information about UW-Stout’s testing program, visit www.uwstout.edu/surge-testing.

All UW-Stout off-campus students and employees are also being offered testing. “Students living in residence halls have been tested regularly since early in the semester and will continue to follow their current testing regimen,” the university said in a news release.

“I am pleased that we are able to offer this free testing program for the university and broader community,” said UW-Stout Chancellor Katherine Frank in the news release. “We want to be a partner in the effort to stem the spread of the virus in western Wisconsin. I encourage everyone to register for a test and do their part to contribute to the health and safety of our community.”

Sarah Seifert is the L-T's education and health reporter. She has worked as a journalist in the Chippewa Valley since 2017 and joined the L-T in 2019. Get in touch at sarah.seifert@ecpc.com or on Twitter @sarahaseifert.