Fewer people getting COVID tests while positive rate grows

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Milwaukee County health leaders said the number of people getting tested for COVID-19 has fallen dramatically over the past few weeks.

That's occurred as the percentage of those tests coming back positive has increased.

Two weeks ago, 7,000 people per day were getting tested on average at the Miller Park community testing site.

That's fallen to 4,400 per day.

Health officials fear that's blinding them to the virus.

"This would not be so troubling if not for the fact that we're still seeing a higher percentage of positive readings," said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

He said they're not sure why fewer people are getting tested.

"Following Thanksgiving, I think there is the fatigue that we have been talking about," said Barrett.

The percentage of positive tests has steadily risen to 14 percent. That worries Milwaukee County EMS Director Ben Weston.

"This is likely the beginning of the effects from Thanksgiving gatherings that we're starting to see and likely the the tip of the iceberg to come," said Weston.

Less testing impacts Milwaukee County twice. First, people may be infected and spread the disease without knowing. Second, the county can't be sure how the virus is acting in the community.

"Testing allows us to recognize the burden of COVID-19," said Weston.

Miller Park tested fewer people Monday, Dec. 7, than on any Monday since opening in October.

"This disease, this pandemic, is still in full throttle and I assume that if more people were tested the numbers would go up," said Barrett.

Vaccines are coming, but Barrett and health leaders said they're not coming as fast as people may think.

"Even in the best case scenario, getting this vaccine out to as many people that need it is essentially a half year project," said Barrett.

The county wants people to get tested. It stresses people may have symptoms they think aren't COVID-19.

Cold symptoms, flu symptoms, even stomach symptoms can all indicate COVID-19.

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