Wisconsin Is Getting Free Rapid COVID-19 Testing

The UW System is making free COVID-19 rapid testing possible in Wisconsin.

The University of Wisconsin System is setting up new COVID-19 rapid testing sites to assist with testing initiatives across the state. These testing locations are possible due to a partnership between the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the UW System.

Back in August, the federal government purchased 150 million Abbott BinaxNOW rapid tests to help assist with the testing initiatives in states hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. The test allows patients to know if they tested positive for COVID-19 within 15 minutes of the test being administered.

The tests will be free of cost and will be readily available at UW-Milwaukee, and other campuses throughout the state. The testing site at UWM will open on Nov. 10 at the student union (2200 E. Kenwood Blvd.). There will also be testing sites at UW-Washington County (400 S. University Dr.) and UW-Waukesha (1500 N. University Dr.) campuses, but these locations will not open until Nov. 15.

For a full list of UW campuses being used for a testing site go to the UW System website. These testing sites will continue to operate until the middle of December.

At the main UWM campus testing will be open to the public on weekdays through mid-December. The Washington County and Waukesha campuses will have testing on Nov. 18, 19 and 25 and Dec. 2, 3, 9, 10, 16 and 18. Note that the main Milwaukee campus will not be providing testing on those dates. Details on hours will be provided on UWM’s coronavirus website.



Testing at UWM will take place in the Wisconsin Room, which is located on the second floor of the student union. The room is not directly near any entrances to the building, which has raised some concerns about exposure. When asked about how UWM will protect students, John Schumacher, news editor and media relations manager at UWM, said in an email that nothing will change from the current procedures, which include social distancing and a mask mandate.

The program will last six weeks and is one of the first partnerships for “surge testing” to be implemented between a university system and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Children above the age of five, community members and university staff will all be eligible for testing at UWM through this program. UWM students will continue to receive their testing through the current testing program established by Gov. Tony Evers and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. Evers’ program allotted 350,000 antigen tests for the UW System to distribute amongst the various campuses.

“We are pleased to expand our existing testing effort through this new partnership between UW System and the federal government,” UWM Chancellor Mark Mone said in a press release. “This effort embodies the Wisconsin Idea in which our universities share their resources and expertise to solve problems and help their communities.”

According to the release, Abbox BinaxNOW tests are self-administered with a nasal swab. The collection of the nasal swab will be supervised by an eTrueNorth medical professional. If a patient tests negative with symptoms or a positive result with no symptoms, it is recommended that they get a confirmation test.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services will be providing 30,000 confirmation tests free of charge.  These confirmation tests will be polymerase chain reaction tests, which can take several days to get the results for.

If a confirmation COVID test is necessary, the test will be completed immediately at the same testing site with results uploaded in approximately four days.

To register for a free COVID test, go to doineedacovid19test.com. The test results will be available at the same site. 




Corey Schmidt was an editorial intern for Milwaukee Magazine in Fall 2020. Currently, Corey is a junior at DePaul University where he majors in both French horn performance and communication & media.