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Dane County partners with Boys & Girls Club to bring COVID testing to the community


For more than two months, Public Health Madison Dane County, with the help of the Wisconsin National Guard, has operated free coronavirus testing at the Alliant Energy Center. Recognizing that not everyone can get there easily — and recognizing that not everyone can wait in line for 90 minutes to get a test — PHMDC is bringing testing to the community.

Starting July 7, PHMDC will operate testing clinics twice weekly at sites throughout the Madison area. The testing sites will be open to all, but the locations were chosen specifically to make testing easy for people of color, said  Michael Johnson, CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County, which has contracted with the County government to coordinate the test sites. Madison365 has also been contracted to help get the word out.

The project’s goal is to test 5,000 people in three weeks.

“It’s important particularly to people of color to get tested, given the disproportionate number of African American and Latinos who have contracted this deadly virus,” he said. “We were concerned that we need to take it out of the Alliant Energy Center and bring it into the community. And that’s why we’re partnering with groups like the Hmong Institute and Lighthouse (Church), to remove any transportation barriers or other barriers people may have. That’s why we wanted to bring it to the community. We’ve been working on this for about six weeks to finalize the details with the health department to make this happen.”

Of the more than 29,000 people who’ve been confirmed to be infected with coronavirus, 18 percent are Black and 31 percent are Latino. Black people make up only six percent of the state’s population; Latinos makeup just seven percent. Even more concerning, Black people make up 26 percent of the coronavirus deaths in Wisconsin.

But it’s not just that coronavirus can kill you, Johnson said.

“I look at people like Scarface. He’s one of my favorite rappers,” Johnson said. “He’s now going to be on dialysis. He was healthy, caught COVID-19. And I will tell you once I saw that happen to him, it made me reevaluate how I spend my time in the community, because it’s impacting us the most.”

Testing is free and open to all, symptoms or not.

“Everybody is welcome, kids, adults,” Johnson said. “We want people to know that it’s free. They don’t have to have any symptoms, and in fact, they can come back every day. If they choose to come to all of the centers and get tested, they should get tested more than once.”