As problems pile up, Gov. Reynolds brushes off questions about Test Iowa: ‘This is one tool in the toolbox’

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Gov. Reynolds gathers her papers at the end of her May 22 press conference. — video still

For the second day in a row, Gov. Kim Reynolds assured Iowans that Test Iowa will now schedule a COVID-19 test for anyone who wants one. But as reporters explained to the governor at her press conference on Friday, that is not the case.

Monica Madden of WHO-TV told Reynolds she had filled out a Test Iowa assessment and received an automated reply which said she didn’t qualify for testing. Two hours after the press conference concluded, KCCI reporter Chris Gothner tweeted that he also had been turned down by Test Iowa.

The governor’s advice for those who are still being told they don’t qualify for testing by Test Iowa is to take the online assessment again. If anyone continue “to see issues with that, let us know and we’ll look into it,” Reynolds said. (The phone number for the governor’s office is 515-281-5211.)

When she discusses her decisions to relax COVID-19 restrictions in Iowa, Gov. Reynolds places Test Iowa (which she established through a $26 million no-bid contract to the first company she talked to regarding statewide testing) at the center of her plans, saying it is essential to increasing testing around the state. But when she is questioned about the reported shortcomings of the program, Reynolds stresses that time is still needed for Test Iowa to “ramp up” and calls it “one tool in the toolbox.”

Kathie Obradovich of the Iowa Capital Dispatch questioned Reynolds about people who are told by Test Iowa to schedule an appointment, but can’t do so because there are no testing slots available. That has become an oft-reported problem in the Des Moines area.

“Do you anticipate that changing?” Obradovich asked.

“This is one tool, Kathie,” Reynolds replied. “So, this isn’t the only way to get tested.”

It is, however, the only testing program in the state that is offering — or intended to offer — a test for anyone who wants it.

“In three weeks, we’ve done a significant ramp up…,” Reynolds continued. “And so as we ramp up and continue to enhance the processes, we’re going to get better at that, and we will be able to meet the expectation of Iowans. But in the meantime, again, this is one process we’re going to have. You can still go to clinics, you can still go to hospitals. There’s a lot of other options that are available for Iowans.”

“And when you take a look at that holistically, we are providing incredible testing opportunities for the citizens of Iowa.”

Caroline Cummings of KGAN asked the governor about how Iowans who have to rely on public transportation can access Test Iowa sites, if those sites are not located near them.

“You have to remember, Caroline, this is one tool in the toolbox, there’s many other options for them to get tested,” Reynolds replied.

The governor, again, encouraged people to take a broader view of the state’s COVID-19 testing efforts.

“Overall, I think we’re working really hard,” she said. “There’s a lot of people across the state that have worked really hard to provide additional opportunities to test Iowans and we’re going to continue to see the method in which we do that, I think, evolve with innovative and new technologies being developed all the time.”

At 2 p.m. on Friday, the Iowa Department of Public Health was reporting 445 more Iowans had tested positive for COVID-19 during the previous 24 hours. The department also reported another 19 Iowans had died from the virus since 2 p.m on Thursday.

A total of 16,492 people in the state had tested positive for COVID-19 by 2 p.m. on Friday. The state’s death toll from the virus had risen to 424.

At her press conferences, Reynolds frequently talks about receiving testing data so detailed she can examine data by individual zip codes, which the governor says allows her and her advisers to narrowly focus their plans for mitigating the spread of the virus, and largely eliminates the need for taking statewide actions. On Friday, Reynolds was asked if she intends to share the zip code-level data with the public.

The governor turned the question over to IDPH Medical Director Dr. Caitlin Pedati.

“We are looking for ways to do that,” Pedati said.

Linn County Public Health has been offering zip code-level testing data for the county on its COVID-19 information page since April 23.

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