Gov. Evers, DHS announce COVID-19 testing support for schools

MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- State officials announced Tuesday, June 22, they'll be providing K-12 schools in Wisconsin with a free voluntary testing program for students, because kids under 12 still can't get a vaccine.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services and Department of Public Instruction developed the opt-in program to take the burden of testing from schools, stressing the importance of protecting kids when schools go back in session.

State officials say vaccination rates for kids 12-17 in the state remain low at 25-30 percent. In Milwaukee, 36.2 percent of city residents who are eligible to get the shot have finished their vaccine series.

Milwaukee County health officials say a robust testing program and safeguards at schools are crucial in keeping the community safe in the fall, adding low vaccination rates can affect how a community surges.

"We can also differentiate as people start to get more respiratory viruses, who just has the common cold and who has COVID-19 and perhaps who has influenza," said Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. 

"Projections suggest that if large regions remain unvaccinated, we may see more surges in disease among these unvaccinated populations in the fall," added Dr. Ben Weston, medical director at the Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management.

Following Tuesday's announcement, the Wisconsin DHS said every school district received a survey on what level of testing they want and need.

DHS will return COVID-19 test results electronically to students and parents.

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