Gov. Kim Reynolds announced on Tuesday the state met its goal of processing 5,000 tests a day on both Saturday and Monday. When Reynolds announced the creation of Test Iowa in April, she said the testing it would perform would give the state a 5,000-test-a-day capacity. The governor has repeatedly used that capacity as a talking point since the first Test Iowa site opened on April 25, even though the number of tests conducted rarely came close to it.
Reynolds made the announcement during the first of her now twice-a-week press conferences on COVID-19. The governor also said that all the trends in testing data were headed in the right direction, pointing to the Iowa Department of Public Health’s report on Tuesday morning that only 6 percent of the tests processed in the previous 24 hours were positive, reducing the state’s overall positivity rate to 12.2 percent.
On May 12, the World Health Organization released guidance for governments considering taking steps to reopen that advised COVID-19 restrictions should be kept in place until test positivity rates were 5 percent or lower for 14 days in a row. That hasn’t happened in Iowa since substantial spread of the virus began in March.
During the press conference, Reynolds was asked about calls by Democratic members of the Iowa House of Representatives for an investigation of reported problems with Test Iowa by the House’s Government Oversight Committee. Test Iowa was created while the legislature was in recess, when Reynolds awarded a $26 million no-bid contract to a Utah tech company with less than a month of experience running a testing program.
One of the concerns raised about Test Iowa is whether the amount of data it is releasing is too limited.
“Well, first of all, we’re releasing a lot of data,” Reynolds said. “A lot more than we ever have, and Test Iowa has allowed us to do that.”
The governor said that Test Iowa is only one test provider the state is relying on.
“It’s been a whole host: national labs, the State Hygienic Lab, the Test Iowa,” Reynolds said. “And it’s not just about the test. Not only has it [Test Iowa] provided us tests, it’s helped streamline the process.”
The governor praised the data management services Test Iowa has conducted, saying it’s “providing critical information to the Department of Public Health and our epi team.”
“I’m proud of it,” Reynolds said. “I’m not going to back away from it.”
On Tuesday, IDPH reported another 264 Iowans have tested positive for COVID-19, including two residents of Linn County. According to IDPH, as of 10 a.m. on Tuesday, no new cases of the virus have been confirmed among residents of Johnson County during the previous 24 hours. The newly reported cases brought the total number of Iowans who have tested positive to 19,952.
IDPH also reported another 20 people have died from COVID-19, bringing the state’s death toll to 558.
Outbreaks of the virus have been confirmed at two more long-term care facilities, the department confirmed on Tuesday. But it was a different type of COVID-19 outbreak discussed at the governor’s press conference.
IDPH Deputy Director Sarah Reisetter said last week that it was IDPH’s policy to announce outbreaks at business locations — such as meat processing plants — only in response to questions from reporters about whether any new outbreaks had occurred. On Tuesday, Reisetter said that policy may change.
“We have been working on a more systematic process for being able to announce those outbreaks as they are detected,” Reisetter said. “We’ll continue to keep you informed since we’re not going to do this [hold press conferences] on a daily basis, and we figure out another way to make people aware of those as we do confirm them.”