Free, rapid-results COVID-19 tests available for community at UW-Milwaukee

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, in partnership with the University of Wisconsin System and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will provide community members with new rapid-results COVID-19 tests, beginning Tuesday, Nov. 10.

The federal government purchased 150 million Abbott BinaxNOW diagnostic tests in August, one day after an Emergency Use Authorization was issued by the Food and Drug Administration. The Department of Health and Human Services is providing 250,000 tests to UW System campuses for a six-week “surge testing” effort aimed at supporting areas that have seen recent spikes in coronavirus cases.

At UWM, the tests will be given to community members age 5 and older and university employees. Students will continue to be tested through an existing testing program supplied by Gov. Tony Evers and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, which provided 350,000 antigen tests to the 13 UW System schools.

“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. “This effort embodies the Wisconsin idea in which our universities share their resources and expertise to solve problems and help their communities.”

Abbott BinaxNOW tests are self-administered using a light nasal swab under the supervision of medical professionals from eTrueNorth, a federal contractor. Abbott BinaxNOW tests provide results in about 15 minutes. Confirmatory PCR tests from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services will be provided — also free of charge — to people who have symptoms but test negative with the Abbott BinaxNOW antigen test and to people who don’t have symptoms but test positive with the Abbott BinaxNOW antigen test.

Antigen tests, which are relatively fast and inexpensive, look for proteins from the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19. PCR tests, which are more accurate but may take longer to process, look for genetic material from that virus.

UWM expects to test as many as 1,500 people per day at its BinaxNOW testing site in the UWM Student Union, starting Tuesday, Nov. 10, and continuing on weekdays through mid-December. Tests will be offered at UWM at Waukesha and UWM at Washington County on Nov. 18, 19 and 25 and Dec. 2, 3, 9, 10, 16 and 18. There will be no testing at the Milwaukee campus on those dates. Details on hours will be provided on UWM’s coronavirus website.

Participants can register for a free test at They will go to the testing site, administer the test and wait for results that they will retrieve by logging into the same website via their smartphone. There will be a computer terminal available for those without access to a phone. If they need a confirmatory PCR test, it will be done immediately at the same location, with results available in about four days.