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State Will Not Move Forward With Centralized Vaccine Registration System

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Natalie Krebs
/
IPR file
Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Wednesday the state will not go forward to contract with Microsoft to build a centralized COVID-19 vaccine registration system.

Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Wednesday the state has decided not to contract with Microsoft to build a centralized COVID-19 vaccine registration system.

Gov. Kim Reynolds has announced the state will not move forward with plans to contract with Microsoft to build a centralized COVID-19 vaccine registration system.

Reynolds announced last week the state had selected Microsoft to build the centralized vaccination system, where Iowans could register to get a vaccine appointment, expected to be up and running within a few weeks.

But at a press conference on Wednesday, Reynolds said the state will not move forward with the partnership.

Reynolds said upon review, the state determined the new system would cause too much disruption to current systems in place and said it will now work to strengthen existing programs, like the statewide 211 hotline.

"Part of the issue is our Iowans are already used to utilizing that call center, and so that's normally where they would go. And we just want to be careful about layering other options on top of that," she said.

The sudden announcement by the state has called into question what resources are available for Iowans who do not have access to the internet or a limited ability to use a computer to schedule appointments.

During a phone call for seniors set up by AARP last Friday, several residents asked interim Department of Public Health Director Kelly Garcia how to find an appointment without the internet.

Garcia at the time pointed to the state's plans to build the centralized registration system and call center as a resource.

"That’s taken a little bit to stand up, you know, and these, these kinds of systems are a little bit complicated. And they say, we needed a steady funding stream to stand them up," she said.

However, hours later, the AP reported the state had informed bidders it would not award a contract for a statewide call center for COVID-19 appointments and information.

Reynolds' announcement on Wednesday ended the state's short bid for request for proposals to award contracts to build a centralized registration and call center first put out on Feb. 4.

On Wednesday, she said Iowans who need help getting an appointment can call their local Area Agency on Aging until other resources are set up.

"We know that barriers still remain for Iowans who are currently eligible, and we're actively determining how we can leverage existing partnerships to provide an easier alternative to online scheduling," she said.

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Screenshot
This screenshot of Iowa's coronavirus website shows the difference between test positivity rates calculated by total number of tests and individuals who test positive.

A new way to calculate the positivity rate

State officials also announced Wednesday they are changing the way they calculate the state’s COVID-19 percent positivity rate by the end of this week, causing the rate to drop.

They say the state will switch to reporting COVID-19 percent positivity based on the number of total tests, instead of using the average of individuals who test positive over a 7- or 14-day period.

Interim Department of Public Health Director Kelly Garcia said at a press briefing before Reynolds' press conference that the change was made because testing has greatly increased in the past few months, tying each test to the correct individuals is time-consuming for her department, and availability of at-home tests will no longer allow the state to track all individuals who test positive.

"While this is good news for many, many reasons, the expansion of testing approaches will further limit the availability of public health to monitor all of these results on an individual level," Garcia said.

Garcia said state health officials planned to recommend the change to Reynolds last fall, but the plan was put on hold due to the spike in COVID-19 cases.