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Iowa Governor Announces $26 Million COVID-19 Testing Initiative; Test Sites Not Open

novel coronavirus
Courtesy of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Novel coronavirus

Gov. Kim Reynolds unveiled a public-private initiative called Test Iowa on Tuesday to expand coronavirus testing in Iowa after the state signed a $26 million contract with a Utah-based company to administer the program.

Testing capabilities for COVID-19 have been limited in Iowa and throughout the country, leaving public health officials without a clear view of how many people are infected.

Reynolds said the contract with Nomi Health will eventually allow the state to process an additional 3,000 tests each day, for a total of 540,000 tests over the length of the one-year contract. Fewer than 1,800 Iowans have been tested each day as of April 20.

“It will also help us gather critical information from Iowans that will help our health officials better target and fight the virus,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds is encouraging Iowans to visit testIowa.com to complete an online assessment that will ask about symptoms, contact with others, home address, contact information and demographics. She said it will notify people if they qualify for a COVID-19 test and will schedule them for a test at one of six drive-thru locations.

But the drive-thru sites don’t exist yet.

The first site is scheduled to open in downtown Des Moines Saturday, and it’s not clear when the five others will open or where they will be located.

“As the tests come in, they’ll start to look at the data and see where the majority of Iowans are at, and then we will be able to react to that,” Reynolds said. “We will be able to set up in areas all across the state.”

Reynolds said the state is also sending a team to Tama County this week to test long term care facility staff.

She said health care and other essential workers will be prioritized through Test Iowa at first, and it’s not clear when the state’s criteria to qualify for a test might be broadened.

According to the Test Iowa website, people who test positive for COVID-19 through this program are responsible for reaching out to their health care provider to talk about next steps.

Reynolds said the state owns personal health data entered by Iowans during the online assessment, and that it is protected under the medical privacy law HIPAA.

Reynolds said Iowans who get tested through the Test Iowa program will not have to pay for it. She said all the samples will be sent to the State Hygienic Lab for processing, which will also receive additional equipment from Nomi Health, and Iowans can receive results by email within 72 hours.

Domo and Qualtrics are also providing services under the agreement.

Governor’s office staff said they intend to use federal coronavirus relief funds to pay for it.

Utah has similar coronavirus testing agreement

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert announced the Test Utah initiative April 2 with the same companies that Iowa has hired.

At the time, Herbert said the goal was to get 4,000 tests completed a day from Test Utah over the couple of weeks that followed for a total of 7,000 test per day in the state. According to the CEO of Silicon Slopes, Test Utah had conducted a total of 11,232 COVID-19 tests as of Tuesday.

As of Tuesday, Utah’s total tests per day, including those from Test Utah and other resources, did not exceed 3,945.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter