As COVID-19 spreads throughout Wisconsin, collaboration within the private and public sectors has bolstered the state’s response to the virus, but there is still much work to be done.
Exact Sciences CEO Kevin Conroy and Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary Designee Andrea Palm discussed where the state stands in terms of COVID-19 testing and plans moving forward — including the hiring of more contact tracers to fill gaps in local capacities — during a Cap Times Idea Fest session Tuesday moderated by WKOW news anchor Amber Noggle.
“It really was the infusion of private sector expertise… that allowed us to build the plans and to execute in a way that has brought us to where we are,” Palm said.
As a company that works to optimize cancer screenings and monitoring, Exact Sciences retrained its equipment in such a way that it was able to examine DNA in order to recognize the coronavirus rather than its usual target: cancerous cells.
Epic Systems also helped by writing software interfaces that allow for about 80% of COVID-19 tests to be ordered electronically, according to Conroy. Initially, that involved manually inputting information from paper into the Exact Sciences software system, he said.
National Guard task forces across the state have also helped to increase testing capacity since the first cases in March. Palm said testing capacity is now at about 38,000 tests a day.