Omicron Surge COVID Testing (copy)

Pharmacy technician Ryan White swirls a swab in a vile of solution as he administers a COVID-19 PCR test through the drive-up window of Forward Pharmacy in McFarland on Tuesday.

Amid a local and national COVID-19 testing backlog, Madison Metropolitan School District officials recently acquired 15,000 PCR tests, and students, staff and their families can sign up to get a free test.

The catch: they expire Jan. 10.

The district has a list of testing locations on its website with a variety of hours, and will offer weekend testing Jan. 8 and 9 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at ​​Memorial High, Van Hise Elementary/Hamilton Middle, East High, La Follette High, Gompers Elementary/Blackhawk Middle and the Holtzman building at 333 Holtzman Road.

MMSD students, staff and families can take a test, with pre-registration preferred online, but people can register on-site, as well.

MMSD spokesman Tim LeMonds said the district is “working all the angles” to get tests when possible. Until the supply chain of tests stabilizes, the community should expect a fluctuation of availability and unavailability, he said.

“When we get them, these tests do have an expiration date,” LeMonds said. “So there'll be time periods where we will be putting out the message, ‘Hey, if you want to get tested, now's the time, come on and get tested.’ And then when our supply is more limited, we're going to be in a situation where we're saying if you're symptomatic, we encourage you to be tested.”

LeMonds said the 15,000 tests were acquired from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

Testing hours and days vary by site and are fluctuating with more sites being added. The most up-to-date hours can be found on the district’s website.

"We really want to use them all up," LeMonds said.

Tests, both rapid ones for home and appointments for PCR, have been especially hard to come by amid the fast-spreading Omicron variant and following the holiday season, Public Health Madison & Dane County testing director Ken Van Horn told the Cap Times.

“We knew that we were going to see an uptick in testing from Omicron and increased infections. And we knew we were going to see an uptick in testing because of the holidays, holiday travel and gatherings,” he said. “They just happened to hit at exactly the same time.”

Dane County, Wisconsin and the United States are seeing pandemic-record case numbers.

Clarification: MMSD received clarification from DHS after publication that the tests must be used for students, staff and their families. The article has been updated.

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