Iowa rolls out drive-through testing for COVID-19

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds holds a news conference on COVID-19 at the State Emergency Operations Center in Johnston Tuesday, April 21, 2020. (Photo by Zach Boyden-Holmes/Pool, The Des Moines Register)

The state of Iowa has partnered with several private companies to offer expanded, drive-through testing for COVID-19.

The newly launched program will enable Iowa to perform an additional 540,000 tests at a rate of up to 3,000 people per day, Gov. Kim Reynolds said Tuesday at her daily press briefing.

The state and its Utah-based corporate partners at Qualtrics, Domo, Nomi Health and Silicon Slopes have launched a new website, TestIowa.com. The site is designed to let Iowans complete an assessment that will dictate whether they need to be tested.

“This type of information will help Iowans assess eligibility for testing and further inform the state’s response to COVID-19,” Reynolds said. “By taking the assessment and sharing the information, you can help us zero in on potential outbreaks and new clusters so that we can target our response and protect the health of others.”

Reynolds said the next stage of the process for Iowans will involve “drive-through testing locations where individuals are swabbed, samples are sent to a lab, and results are returned electronically” by email within 72 hours.

Not everyone who takes an assessment will be deemed “eligible” for a test, Reynolds said.

“It’s as easy as three simple steps,” Reynolds said. “Step one, you go to TestIowa.com to complete a brief assessment that captures information about symptoms or underlying conditions that you may have, as well as where you live and what your occupation is … Step two, get tested if you currently have symptoms, have interacted with someone who has already tested positive, or have recently visited a place where COVID is more widespread. Step three, if you test positive, we’ll do the contact tracing to determine who you’ve been in contact with.”

Reynolds posted a video on social media Tuesday to promote the test site.

 

It was not immediately clear how much the program will cost taxpayers. Reynolds’ office indicated the state’s contract with Nomi Health will be funded entirely with federal money set aside for states’ mitigation efforts and no state money will be spent.

Reynolds said the state will own the data collected through the assessments and testing, but it will be kept secure by Qualtrics, a company she described as meeting “the highest standard of security.”

Iowa is the second state — the first being Utah — to roll out the new initiative, Reynolds said, adding that she expects other Midwestern states to come on board soon.

The testing sites will be in operation Saturday at the Iowa Events Center in downtown Des Moines and a long-term care facility in Tama, she said.

Dave Elkington, a board member with Silicon Slopes, said at Tuesday’s press conference that the tests will be offered to Iowans in drive-through tents, with first-responders and medical professionals prioritized, followed by Iowans who are highly symptomatic.

“The objective here is really to get everybody back to work, back to their normal life,” he said.

Reynolds is encouraging all Iowans to go to the TestIowa.com site and complete the assessment, regardless of whether they are experiencing any symptoms associated with the virus.

Also on Tuesday, Reynolds reported an additional 482 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and four additional deaths. That brings the total number of positive cases in Iowa to 3,641 in 84 of 99 counties, with 83 deaths.

The governor said 51% of the deaths involve long-term care residents.

Clark Kauffman
Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing. His 2004 series on prosecutorial misconduct in Iowa was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. From October 2018 through November 2019, Kauffman was an assistant ombudsman for the Iowa Office of Ombudsman, an agency that investigates citizens’ complaints of wrongdoing within state and local government agencies.