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New COVID Connect system cuts testing wait time ‘nearly in half’

NOW: New COVID Connect system cuts testing wait time ‘nearly in half’

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MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) – A new system rolled out by the Department of Health Services and Wisconsin National Guard has helped cut wait times at community testing sites as well as improve collection of data neededto better track the spread of the coronavirus.

“We wanted to figure out ways to not only speed up the process but also ensure that the data we were collecting was accurate,” Stephanie Smiley told CBS 58 in an interview. Smiley is the Interim Division of Public Health Administrator and State Health Officer at the Department of Health Services.

The need she described led to the implementation of the Dynamics Testing and Registration Application, better known as COVID Connect. While the system has only been in place for a little more than a week, it’s already producing results.

“In some of our more busy areas such as Madison and Milwaukee, we have seen wait times up to four hours,” said Cpt. Jordan Schultz, the Regional Officer in Charge for the Wisconsin National Guard Task Force Charlie. “With the new system implementation, we’ve cut that time nearly in half.”

People who want to get tested for COVID-19 can CLICK HERE while they’re waiting in line or before they go to a testing site. There, users fill out a questionnaire asking for basic contact information as well as things like symptoms, recent travel history, people you may have been in close contact with and other relevant information. From there, the National Guard takes over.

“They’ll come [to a community testing site] with that QR code, we will scan it and we will bring up their information and we can link it to a specific QR code for the actual specimen that’s being collected,” Cpt. Schultz said in an interview at the UMOS testing site in Milwaukee.

“It really has sped up the efficiency both on the front end as well as ensuring that we have a lot more data on the back end,” Smiley said.

The system has helped the state not only cut wait times at testing sites it controls but it also ensures test results are sent faster to people either through a phone call or email. It also helps health staff quickly get in touch with people who are infected as well as cut down the time it may take to reach other people they may have been in close contact with.

DHS also addressed privacy concerns.

“Everything that is provided in the system goes into our secure data base,” Smiley said. “This is not anything that is shared beyond the public health official that use it in order to help contain disease.”

The COVID Connect system was first rolled out at one of the Madison sites, but has now been introduced in sites in Milwaukee with plans for further implementation in other parts of the state where DHS and the National Guard are administering tests. Further expansion beyond their own sites is also being considered, Smiley said, but believes they have had a good start to the system.

“It’s a step in the right direction to make sure that we’ve established efficiencies within our community testing sites.”

Officials encourage people to register online before they go to a testing site to speed up the overall process. To register, CLICK HERE. The website to register is register.covidconnect.wi.gov.

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