MARINETTE — Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes spoke with the EagleHerald Tuesday to discuss the state’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its efforts to expand testing and financial aid.

The State of Wisconsin has nearly 13,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 25 of which are from Marinette County. The county’s 25 cases has resulted in two deaths, as of Monday.

Barnes said the state has been working to ensure its people has access to adequate virus testing.

“Prior to the ruling (to strike down the safer-at-home orders) we were doing a lot to expand testing in the State of Wisconsin,” he said.

He explained that it was the state’s goal to be able to administer 85,000 tests per week, which has been reached. 

“We haven’t done that much in a single week, but we have the ability to do so, if we need to,” Barnes said.

Last week, free testing was provided in Crivitz and Barnes said 770 specimens were taken over the course of three days.

“Anybody with symptoms should get tested,” Barnes said. “Even if they’re mild symptoms, if something is a bit off, you should get a test. It’s important step to keep people around us safe, it’s isn’t just about ourselves but it’s also about the people we may come in contact with.”

On top of expanding testing capabilities, Barnes explained the State of Wisconsin has also created the “We’re All in Initiative,” a cash grant program geared for small busineses. 

“It’s mostly geared toward small businesses that were left out of the initial federal funding,” he explained. 

The initiative offers $75 million in assistance for small businesses, which will be used to provide $2,500 grants to small businesses with 20 or fewer FTEs impacted by COVID-19. The initiative will also include a guides to be used by businesses looking to implement safety practices during the pandemic, an ethnic minority emergency grants, and a public information campaign to promote the initiative, a press release from Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers office states. It is funded by federal money received through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Barnes said small business can apply for the grant in early June.