Reynolds’ decision to scale back testing in Dubuque draws fire

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds has scaled back testing for the virus in Dubuque, where infections have been rapidly climbing. (Photo by Linh Ta/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ decision to scale back coronavirus testing in northeast Iowa, where infections have been on the rise, is raising questions.

On Monday, Reynolds issued an order that limits testing for the virus in Dubuque. According to the Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, the testing site there had been performing 400 to 550 tests per day, but is now limited to performing no more than 100 tests per day. City officials say the order means the testing site will be open only from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. Tuesday through Thursday.

Reynolds’ office has said the change was made to “maintain consistency and high quality performance across all Test Iowa sites,” but has not elaborated.

According to Iowa Department of Public Health data, the 14-day rolling total of cases in Dubuque County has risen dramatically in the past three weeks, from 179 cases on July 1 to 400 cases currently.

“This month, Dubuque County has seen its most staggering case counts of the entire pandemic, and one of the highest days was just last Thursday,” U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer said Tuesday in a letter to Reynolds’ office. “Now is not the time to be ramping testing down anywhere in our state — in fact, testing is needed now more than ever to identify and contain the spread of the virus.”

U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer is a Democrat who represents Iowa’s 1st District. (Photo courtesy of Rep. Abby Finkenauer’s office)

Finkenauer, a Democrat, said she is concerned that the actions of Reynolds, a Republican, “could prevent progress toward controlling the virus and getting our economy back on track.” Finkenauer represents Iowa’s 1st congressional district, which includes all of Dubuque County and the surrounding counties

Iowa is now averaging 530 new COVID-19 cases per day — more than double the average at this time last month. The current seven-day average of 530 is identical to the number of new cases in Iowa on Monday, July 20, as reported by the New York Times.

As is usually the case, the Times’ data conflicts with data published by the Iowa Department of Public Health, which is currently reporting only 243 infections for Monday.

And while IDPH is reporting zero COVID-19 deaths for Monday, the New York Times is reporting five deaths in Iowa for that same day.

Also On Monday, a Council Bluffs nursing home reported that COVID-19 had killed three residents and infected 30 workers and residents. As reported by the Daily Nonpareil, officials at the Risen Son Christian Village home said all of the residents who have tested positive have been residents of the skilled-nursing area of the facility.

The data from Risen Son conflicts with information published by IDPH, which indicates a total of 25 infections at the home for both residents and staff.

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.