Testing capabilities have long been one of the biggest obstacle to Iowa’s ability to address the spread of COVID-19 in the state, and as cases increase, that limitation is becoming more serious.
Sarah Reisetter, the deputy director of the Iowa Department of Public Health, said surveillance testing is definitely going to happen in Columbus Junction, the site of the most severe outbreak of COVID-19, largely because of the Tyson meatpacking plant outbreak there. Today, the governor announced an additional 900 tests are being sent to the town, on top of the 200 sent last week.
Surveillance testing means testing asymptomatic people and those with only minor symptoms.
“The reason that we haven’t done widespread surveillance testing to date is because we just haven’t had the testing supplies available to do that,” Reisetter said.
So far, the state has tested 19,869 people, though requirements for being tested have been limited to people showing symptoms and/or working on the front lines of the coronavirus response, like health care workers and first responders.
Reynolds insisted there aren’t blind spots because every area of the state has conducted testing.
“If you look at the map, the information that the Iowa Department of Public Health is now providing on the website, you can hover over the different counties and you can see that testing is happening in every county across the state,” Reynolds said.
The peak of illnesses in Iowa is still projected to hit mid-to-late April, and Reisetter said that estimate is based on the progression seen in other states.
“It looks like [the peak] was about four to six weeks from the time that they really started having aggressive efforts,” she said.
Reisetter said the state’s total number of cases will probably increase with increased testing, but those new numbers would be among people with less severe cases of COVID-19 as they target testing in hot spots.
Now, Reisetter said the number of positive cases in Iowa is starting to level off. Today the state reported 96 more, for a total of 1,995.
Yesterday marked the biggest single-day increase with 189 new cases reported from Monday to Tuesday.
“We’re hoping we can continue to do more and more testing, so we’ll be anxious to update Iowans on that aspect hopefully maybe tomorrow.” Reynolds said. “The more testing we’re able to do, that helps, especially if you can do some of the surveillance testing. Because a lot of people are asymptomatic and so to get a better idea of that and to do the contact tracing … it all goes a really long way to allow us to really target our approach and where we need to really concentrate our efforts.”
by Nikoel Hytrek