All Dane County police officers, firefighters and emergency service personnel will have the opportunity to be tested for COVID-19 under a new county program introduced Thursday, June 18, at the McFarland Fire and Rescue Station.

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said $350,000 has been budgeted to provide 3,500 COVID-19 test kits for first responders across Dane County. He said clinics will be set up every couple of weeks through July.

The test kits include a swab that is inserted into the nose and placed in a vial of saline solution. Exact Sciences, which is partnering with the county on the program, will read the tests. It will take three to five days to process test kits for results.

“These folks are out there every day putting their lives on the line,” Parisi said in front of a number of first responders from McFarland and elsewhere in Dane County. “We are really honored to be able to bring testing to them, and I know they are honored to serve their community.”

McFarland Fire Chief Chris Dennis said it was very exciting to have the program kick off in the village.

“Public safety members will get the reassurance that they are not carrying the virus, and not taking it home with them,” he said.

Dr. Kacey Kroenfeld, the county’s medical director, said 25 percent of people testing positive in Dane County were unaware of where they obtained the virus, and 20 percent were asymptomatic.

Parisi said while everyone may be tired of following the precautions to prevent the spread of the virus, COVID-19 still exists and people should continue to wear masks to minimize the chance of infecting others.

“It’s very contagious, and it can be very deadly, particularly to our elderly citizens and people with underlying health conditions,” Parisi said.

“It’s critical that people still remember that COVID is out there, and all of the medical advice we have for staying safer still applies. If everyone were to wear a mask, the numbers of COVID-19 would plummet. Think about it as loving your neighbor. You’re doing it for your parents, your grandparents, and your neighbor who might have a health condition.”

Thirty people have died from COVID-19 and 968 have tested positive in Dane County.

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