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UW-Eau Claire employees, students assist at community COVID-19 testing site

| Gary Johnson

Photo caption: Alison Millis, business manager/analyst in UW-Eau Claire's facilities department, left, worked at the community antigen testing site at Memorial High School along with Grace Crickette, vice chancellor for finance and administration, who led the volunteer effort.

More than 900 COVID-19 tests were administered during the first three days of a free community rapid test site in Eau Claire this month.

The drive-up antigen testing at Memorial High School is available through a partnership between the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the University of Wisconsin System, including UW-Eau Claire, because of a surge of COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin.

“This site is especially important because it is an asymptomatic testing site in Eau Claire,” says Aleah Sauter, the community site leader for Texas-based Rhino Medical Services. “We’re looking for asymptomatic people because they’re what the media calls superspreaders.”

The site administered a total of 901 tests, with 34 positive results, on Nov. 14, 15 and 18.

Two dozen UW-Eau Claire employees and students volunteered for five-hour shifts to direct traffic in and out of the parking lot, respond to questions about the testing process and verify registrations during the first three days of testing. Sauter praised UW-Eau Claire volunteers who helped with the screening process.

“We could not do this without them,” Sauter says. “Without them, this whole process would take five times longer.”

UW-Eau Claire police chief Jay Dobson volunteered to direct traffic on Nov. 18 at the high school parking lot. Four days earlier, he had helped with screening on the first day the community testing site opened.

“I thought this could be an opportunity to give back,” Dobson says. “The way things are going right now it’s all hands on deck.”

Dobson says it’s obvious some people were scared while they went through the testing process, but most people were pleasant as they waited for their tests. 

“I’ve been thanked many times,” Dobson says.

UW-Eau Claire controller Jackie Kriesel was among the volunteers, helping screen people before they were tested. Kriesel called the process “well run, very efficient and organized,” adding she has encouraged people to be tested at the site.

“It’s good to help out when you can,” Kriesel says. “The testing is a good practice that needs to be done and done well. I wanted to be part of it to make sure the testing can continue.”

During their time volunteering, university hall directors Violet Benn and Kyle Arthenayake on Wednesday directed people to an area where they awaited their test results. 

“I’m happy to help out and be a part of the team effort,” says Benn, hall director at Murray and Priory halls.

“It feels good to give back to the community,” says Arthenayake, hall director at Chancellors Hall.

The community testing at the high school continues from noon-8 p.m. every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday until Dec. 9. People should preregister for the test here

Grace Crickette, UW-Eau Claire vice chancellor for finance and administration who led the volunteer effort, says the antigen tests are quick and safe.

“It’s a good way for the community to get their peace of mind,” Crickette says.