Here’s why the wait time to get a COVID test at the Alliant Energy Center Tuesday took so long

Public Health officials do not anticipate the long wait should happen again

MADISON, Wis. — Public Health officials are saying that the long lines and two to three hour wait time to get a COVID test at the Alliant Energy Center Tuesday was an anomaly.

Testing site director Ken Van Horn said there were more COVID tests administered Tuesday in an eight hour period than anywhere in the state of Wisconsin to date. He said the sudden increase in demand was a result of several factors.

“Yesterday we had unprecedented demand and we ended up testing 3,150 people in eight hours. Yesterday was the first day of our new hours. We weren’t open on Monday for the first time since May 11,” Van Horn said.

At the end of the day, Van Horn said they ended up turning away around 50 cars after reaching capacity.

Van Horn said the change in operating hours was to provide more accurate tests results. He said that there are a lot of people who get tested early in the week after thinking they may have been exposed over the weekend, which typically isn’t enough time to result in an accurate COVID test. Van Horn said by opening Tuesdays at noon, it becomes more likely that they can give an accurate reading.

Van Horn also said he believes the increased national news attention to high profile individuals testing positive for COVID in the last several days contributed to the number of people wanting to get tested.

Tuesday was also the first day that the free flu shot clinic was operating simultaneously at the Alliant Energy Center. Public Health’s site coordinator for vaccinations Tess Ellens said fewer than 50 people came to get their flu shot and doesn’t believe the flu shot patients had much to do with the backup. But, Ellens mentioned that many people who wanted to get their flu shot Tuesday likely didn’t wait in the long lines alongside those who were trying to get a COVID test.

“Because of the demand of COVID tests, we were a little backed up for the flu vaccine,” Ellens said. “Today we’ve worked it out so that it’s a separate drive-thru process. So the wait time is much less than it was yesterday for the flu vaccine.”

Van Horn said the National Guard administered all COVID tests Tuesday, doing about 400 tests per hour. He said Public Health officials are hiring more staff to slowly transition out the Guard members.

“This week we are training 15 employees, next week we are training 15 employees, the week after that we are training some more,” Van Horn said. “As we add employees, the guard will be ticking back. So it’s not a simple their going to hand off the site to us.”

Van Horn said he doesn’t expect that the long wait times that happened Tuesday should happen again. The average wait time for a COVID test is typically about 30 minutes. Van Horn suggests that those wanting to get a COVID test should not come the first day of the week they are open and to not come at the beginning of the day as those tend to be their busiest times. Van Horn also suggests pre-registering before showing up.

The new hours for COVID testing at the Alliant Energy Center are Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12 p.m. – 8 p.m., and Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 8 a.m.- 4 p.m.

Van Horn suggests that only people who are showing symptoms or those who think they may have been exposed to someone who tests positive for COVID should get tested to help avoid long wait times.

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