Iowa is not considered a coronavirus “hot spot” and thus is not prioritized for COVID-19 test kits, an issue Congresswoman Cindy Axne is trying to rectify by pointing out the state’s importance to the global food chain.
“I literally heard this from now two testing vendors that I’ve spoken with,” Axne told Starting Line Thursday in an interview. “We weren’t in their first traunch because we’re not a hot spot, and now we’re fighting with everybody else across the country to place us at a higher level.”
Though Iowa’s testing capacity has increased — Gov. Kim Reynolds said Friday 14,565 tests have been negative — it still lags behind neighboring states like Illinois, Minnesota and Missouri.
At Friday’s press conference, Iowa Department of Public Health deputy director Sarah Reisetter said “as additional testing supplies come on-line, the health department has continued to broaden the scope of people that can receive testing at SHL.”
“We’re actually seeing the numbers increase all the time,” Reynolds said. “We’re seeing significant increase of testing capacity with hospitals or through the other labs, the national labs, so we are continuing to see those numbers increase daily.”
However, President Trump himself seemed to cast doubt on rural states like Iowa’s need for widespread testing during his press conference on Friday.
“If we go to Iowa, if we go to Nebraska … they’re very, very capable states in their big distances, lot of land, lot of opening,” Trump said. “You don’t need testing there. You have a state with a small number of cases … we don’t need testing. You don’t have to test every person in the state of Iowa, for example.”
Due to the Trump Administration’s slow response to the coronavirus pandemic, the United States lagged far behind other nations in testing capacity and only now is beginning to get on par with where public health experts say is needed.
Compared to states with tens of thousands of positive coronavirus cases, Iowa’s 1,388 confirmed cases represent .002% of the nation’s total 483,600. Due to the small number of tests conducted outside of the state’s hot spots, however, the actual number of cases here likely is higher and will continue to rise in the coming weeks.
“What I’m trying to do is tell the story of why Iowa should be at the top,” Axne said. “One of the companies that I’m working with actually told me that he spoke with 20 folks, 20 different states today and mine was the most compelling argument because I framed it from the perspective that Iowa feeds our country and feeds the world, and should our agriculture production be inhibited because of a disease spread in our state, we risk another health issue, and he said that’s literally the best argument I’ve heard from anybody that’s talked to me.
“So,” Axne continued, “it’s really trying to use every element I have to try and convince people why we should get what we need.”
It is too soon to tell what the long-term impact on Iowa’s economy will be due to the pandemic (92,962 Iowans filed a recurring unemployment claim last week), but there already are signs it is impacting agriculture.
Ethanol plants are halting production due to a steep drop off in travel that has impacted fuel prices; Tyson Foods in Columbus Junction shut down for at least a week due to an outbreak of COVID-19; and Case New Holland, a construction and agriculture equipment manufacturer, shut down its Burlington plant and furloughed a majority of employees across the country because of a drop in demand for its equipment.
Since January, corn and soybean prices have dropped 15% and 10%, respectively, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.
By Elizabeth Meyer