Reynolds: Widespread coronavirus testing isn’t needed

By: - March 19, 2020 5:11 pm

Gov. Kim Reynolds says widespread coronavirus testing is unnecessary. (Pool photo courtesy of Des Moines Register)

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and her state epidemiologist on Thursday said a public furor over the number of COVID-19 tests performed in the state, and around the country, is misplaced.

The topic has been burning up cable shows and Twitter and Facebook feeds across the nation.

Statehouse reporters grilled the officials at a news conference Thursday afternoon. They wanted to know why more tests aren’t being conducted.

Regardless of whether you are tested, if you don’t feel well, you need to stay home, Dr. Caitlin Pedati, the state medical director and epidemiologist, and Reynolds said.

Everyone needs to keep their distance from other people during the coronavirus outbreak, Pedati said. That, in the end, is the one thing that could slow the spread of the virus, which causes everything from mild flu-like symptoms to death. 

“We continue to hear questions and concerns, and understandably so, about whether or not people need to be tested for this virus,” Pedati said.

“I think that it’s important to keep in mind that not everybody does need to be tested. In fact, many of us will probably never need to be tested. That’s because most of us, about 80 percent, would only experience a very mild kind of illness, similar to a cold or the flu,” Pedati added.

And for all but the most serious of cases, the advice would be the same — stay home and rest. 

Currently, there is no vaccine available.

Pedati said the state has 800 test kits on hand. Reynolds said the White House is working on getting more. 

But both Pedati and Reynolds said the focus should not be on massive testing at this point. With community spread established, their message would be the same even with far more test kits available: If you don’t feel good, you should stay home. If you think you have COVID-19, you should call your doctor’s office for advice on what to do next. Drink fluids. Rest. Cover your coughs. 

If you have recently visited a country that has a Level 3 warning for COVID-19, you should stay home for two weeks and avoid contact with others, Pedati said.

With the relatively limited testing that has been done, 44 cases have been confirmed across 13 counties in Iowa. Another 622 tests were negative. The state hygienic laboratory has added a third shift to help speed test results, state officials said. 

Iowa Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, said national reports note that 80 percent of those carrying the virus don’t know it, so Iowa could have hundreds of thousands of cases. “I think all the advice about staying home, washing hands, etc, is essential,” Bolkcom wrote in an email to reporters. “But it’s not enough … We don’t want to scare people but without needed widespread testing, people should assume (which won’t happen for a while) they might very well be infected right now. We all think we are in danger of getting infected when a bunch of us already are.”

Reynolds, a Republican, this week declared an emergency. Schools, bars, churches, casinos, theaters and other facilities are closed temporarily, and some events in late May have been canceled.

In a related matter, Reynolds said she is still working with state economic development officials and others to come up with assistance for businesses disrupted by the virus outbreak. 

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