Rep. Cindy Axne wants to see testing for COVID-19 in Iowa ramped up.
The congresswoman sent a letter along with other members from Iowa to Gov. Kim Reynolds expressing their concern over the capability of the state’s testing program, known as Test Iowa.
The program promised to increase testing capacity in Iowa by 3,000 tests per day and has been at work in the state for a month. But since the program launched last month it has not reached its testing goal, and hasn’t even been implemented in areas of the state that are considered hot spots for the coronavirus.
“The fact that positive cases are increasing while our testing capabilities remain limited is deeply concerning,” Rep. Axne wrote in the letter to Reynolds. “As our economy has begun to reopen, we know that Iowans will feel safer if they can access a test quickly and within their communities. We need to ensure that essential workers, nursing homes and those who believe they have been exposed can get tests right away.”
Increasing testing capacity is integral to reopening the country safely. Along with contact tracing, testing gives officials an idea of how and where the virus is spreading. That makes it easier to implement precautions and restrictions as needed to slow the spread of coronavirus. Health researchers at Harvard University say the United States needs to triple its testing capacity in order to begin easing social distancing restrictions safely.
Rep. Axne also noted that certain areas of Iowa have seen significant increases in coronavirus cases. Pottawattamie County, for example, had a 418% increase in cases between April and May, but there are still no testing sites in the area.
“This also hurts the counties surrounding it, which are among the most rural in the state and rely on the Council Bluffs-Omaha metro area for health care access,” they wrote. “Without access, these health care workers, first responders, essential workers and individuals are traveling into other states or spending hours traveling to the closest location in Iowa where they can receive a test.”
Axne asked the governor for updates on testing capacity, as well as contact tracing and when residents can expect to receive their test results.
“Widespread testing and contact tracing are key to bringing the rate of positive cases down, and many public health experts have stressed the importance of increasing contact tracing to stop the spread of the virus and safely reopen America’s communities and economy,” the members of Congress wrote.