Axne joins AARP in call for more testing of Iowa seniors

U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne is joining AARP's call for more testing in senior care facilities. (Photo by Getty Images)

U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne is calling on Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds to offer additional COVID-19 testing for older Iowans living in nursing homes.

In a letter Monday to Iowa’s Republican governor, Axne, a Democrat who represents Iowa’s 3rd congressional district, also requested the creation of a dedicated, mobile Test Iowa team focused on testing seniors and other Iowans who live in congregate living communities and called for expanded public disclosure of data that the Iowa Department of Public Health collects on outbreaks in long-term care facilities.

Head shot of Cindy Axne
U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne is a Democrat who represents Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District.

A spokesman for the governor did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

In June, AARP of Iowa AARP Iowa called for immediate, mandatory testing in all of the state’s nursing home and assisted living facilities. The organization was reacting to an Iowa Capital Dispatch report on conditions at the Dubuque Specialty Care home in eastern Iowa. Eleven residents of the home have died of COVID-19, according to the state, and 43 residents of the home have been infected.

Axne’s letter notes changes to the state website that reports COVID-19 data for the state and for long-term care facilities specifically.

The site no longer includes cumulative data on positive cases and makes no reference to homes where major outbreaks are known to have occurred.

“Data on the cumulative total of positive cases in long-term care facilities was moved or removed from the online dashboard,” Axne wrote in her letter to Reynolds. “I request that this data be restored and remain publicly accessible.”

On June 22, the site reported 905 positive cases and 356 deaths — making the mortality rate in Iowa’s long-term care facilities 17 times higher than Iowa’s as a whole, Axne noted.

IDPH data indicates Iowans over the age of 61 account for 87% of the state’s COVID-19 related deaths.

“I am deeply concerned testing for Iowa’s seniors is not a priority, and current levels do not match the dire risk factors that this pandemic poses to them,” Axne wrote to Reynolds. “I hope that future announcements to expand Test Iowa to help Iowa’s seniors and other residents will be considered a top priority. Even with additional sites added over the past month, there are still 80 counties without a testing location — and I continue to hear from constituents with concerns about the distance and time required to receive the test they have been promised.”

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.