Graphic via COURIER.
Graphic via COURIER.

Iowa Rep. Cindy Axne held a tele-town hall meeting this week alongside a panel of experts to give voters the chance to ask questions about the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The remote town hall was conducted over the phone and allowed attendees to dial in and ask questions one at a time. Axne also included experts from the Iowa Departments of Public Health and Human Services, Iowa Homeland Security and the Small Business Administration.

Alexandria from Des Moines called into the town hall and explained that she is a physician working to treat patients with the coronavirus, but has found that medical workers aren’t able to get tested.

“[I] want to know when more testing will be available?” she asked.

Axne explained that she has been working with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and providers to get more tests to the area.

“We should be bringing in additional testing to the Des Moines area this week,” she said. “So, expect that to be happening towards the end of this week or the beginning of next week and we will start being able to test more folks here in the Des Moines area. I know that the governor’s office and myself and others are working to try and open up more testing in private labs outside of the state as well.”

Sarah Reisetter, who serves as the Deputy Director of the Iowa Public Health Department, said workers who are deemed essential, like those working in the medical field, will be able to get tested if they are symptomatic by going through their healthcare provider.

Another health professional had questions about when more personal protective equipment would be made available to nurses and doctors.

“As a front line health care worker in people’s homes…when are we going to get protective gear?” the caller asked. “As of right now, we only have a couple of simple masks and we’re being required to use those five times. It’s not safe for any of us. We keep hearing more are coming, but I have not heard when and unfortunately, I feel like it’s becoming too late for some of us.”

Axne said getting more protective gear for healthcare workers has been a priority for her however, much of the U.S is struggling with the same shortage.

“The president said that he would be opening up the national storage space [of protective equipment], so that we could get more access to the PPE, and that hasn’t happened,” Axne explained. “We are continuing to push on him to make sure that we can get these necessary supplies to our frontline folks, getting into that national storage base bank would be one of the fastest ways where we could move this agenda forward.”

She went on to note that elected officials are already in talks to get help from the National guard to provide more supplies and support as needed.