City of Milwaukee Health Department moves resources from vaccines to testing to accommodate demand

NOW: City of Milwaukee Health Department moves resources from vaccines to testing to accommodate demand

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- A line of cars filled with people waiting up to two hours to get tested for COVID-19 wraps around the Northwest Health Center in Milwaukee.

Inside, there's no wait to get vaccinated.

Acting Mayor Cavalier Johnson and Health Commissioner Kirsten Johnson toured the free community testing and vaccine site on Tuesday, Dec. 28.

"I'm unfortunately not surprised by the situation we find ourselves in after Christmas," Kirsten Johnson said. "The demand for vaccines is low and the demand for testing is high, and I wish it were absolutely the opposite."

The health commissioner said the department is moving staff from vaccine efforts to testing in order to keep up with the surge in demand. The community sites are testing about 500 to 1,000 more people each week, with a 20% positivity rate.

"To me, that's really concerning. That's a fifth of everyone who has the time to get tested is positive," Kirsten Johnson said.

The City of Milwaukee Health Department's data doesn't include people testing at home.

"You do not need to come and get in this long line to have it confirmed with a PCR test," the health commissioner said. "You can assume that it is positive and that you should follow the precautions."

Both the health commissioner and the acting mayor agree a citywide mask or vaccine mandate is not in the cards right now.

"It's not just going to be a mandate that comes from the city, it's going to be the actions that people take in their home," Cavalier Johnson said.

Instead, city leaders continue the push for vaccine and booster shots.

"The most effective tool against COVID-19 is vaccination, and that's what folks in this city should be doing," the acting mayor said.

You can find current hours for Milwaukee's free community testing sites here.

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