Six hundred state employees working Iowa’s COVID-19 response were cut and two Test Iowa Sites closed this week while the state reported escalated coronavirus cases and COVID-related deaths.
The Iowa National Guard on Tuesday merged three separate task forces staffed by 1,000 soldiers and airmen aiding the Iowa Department of Public Health during the pandemic, reducing help to a count of 400. The Sioux County Test Iowa site closed on Tuesday while a second site in Wapello County closed Wednesday.
An additional four people with COVID-19 died as of Thursday morning and another 461 cases were confirmed, according to the state’s coronavirus website—Iowa now has 694 dead and 27,062 confirmed positive cases of the virus.
Iowa National Guard staff was originally brought in to help the state man Test Iowa sites, deliver PPE and operate task force operations and call centers with the Iowa Department of Public Health. Task Force West, which aided at the Sioux City Test Iowa Site, has now joined National Guard Task Forces Central and East to create task Force Highlander.
The remaining number of national guard members helping with COVID-19 response volunteered to stay, according to Iowa National Guard Director of Public Affairs Ramah Husidic.
“Ones who are continuing the missions wanted to stay part of the volunteer COVID-19 response force. Many of our Iowa National Guard both Army and Air have civilian jobs they wanted to return too. The consolidation to Task Force Highlander came as we organized around who volunteered to stay on and who wanted to return to work in civilian life,” said Husidic.
Eighteen Test Iowa sites now remain after the two closures this week. Eight drive-thru test sites are now located in Black Hawk, Buena Vista, Dallas, Linn, Marshall, Polk, Pottawattamie and Scott Counties while ten clinic sites are available in Black Hawk, Carroll, Cass, Crawford, Des Moines, Dickinson, Dubuque, Mitchell, Page and Union Counties.
The state is “actively pursuing clinic sites in both counties and testing remains available through local health care providers.” Reynold’s Communications Director Pat Garett said the opening of these additional testing sites is in the works, though not ready to be announced.
The closures come as The Trump administration on Tuesday announced plans to close 13 federally run coronavirus testing sites by the end of June.
Sites set to close are in Colorado, Pennsylvania, Illinois, New Jersey and Texas—the last of 41 federally operated testing sites. Trump recently said the nation’s increase in confirmed coronavirus cases is due to an overall increase in the availability of virus tests, and added at a his Tulsa rally that he had encouraged officials to slow down testing.
In May, Trump told Reynolds, “So the media likes to say we have the most cases, but we do, by far, the most testing. If we did very little testing, we wouldn’t have the most cases. So in a way, by doing all of this testing, we make ourselves look bad.”
by Isabella Murray
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