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Test Iowa looking to ‘winterize’ coronavirus testing sites
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Test Iowa looking to ‘winterize’ coronavirus testing sites

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Virus Outbreak Test Iowa

A health worker performs a COVID-19 test at a Test Iowa site at Waukee South Middle School on Tuesday in Waukee.

DES MOINES — With the imminent onset of cold weather and flu season in Iowa, Gov. Kim Reynolds said Wednesday state officials are in the process of “winterizing” Test Iowa sites.

Currently, Test Iowa “drive-through” sites are available in Cedar Rapids, Council Bluffs, Davenport, Des Moines, Marshalltown, Storm Lake, Waterloo and West Des Moines.

Also, the governor said, state officials have partnered with health care providers for coronavirus testing clinics in 15 counties: Black Hawk, Carroll, Cass, Crawford, Des Moines, Dickinson, Dubuque, Kossuth, Mitchell, Page, Plymouth, Pottawattamie, Story, Union and Wright.

Another 19 test sites are set up at community colleges, private colleges and state universities.

The 3,000 Test Iowa samples are among the 5,000 processed daily at the State Hygienic Lab.

Michael Pentella, director of the State Hygienic Laboratory, said his facility — at the University of Iowa Research Park in Coralville — is upgrading its equipment to handle 6,000 tests a day by October.

“We’re fast approaching about 500,000 tests combined” in the two labs that have been processing COVID-19 tests and antibody results since March, Pentella said during Reynolds’ news conference.

“This pandemic is unprecedented and very demanding of laboratory resources,” he said. “We’ve been facing many challenges” after moving from a facility mostly testing well water and newborn disease screenings to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The challenges are likely to escalate in the coming months as Iowa combines testing for seasonal influenza and COVID-19 infections, Pentella said.

“We are committed to meeting the needs of the state,” he said. “We’ll do all that we can to perform the testing necessary to control this pandemic and protect the health and lives of Iowans.”

Reynolds said state Department of Transportation and Iowa National Guard officials are working with county emergency managers to identify alternate locations near current Test Iowa sites that can be “winter-proofed” to test a large number of people quickly and effectively, in much the same way the drive-through locations now do.

“We’re looking for sites that will allow us to continue drive-through sites for throughout the winter,” the governor said. “The goal is to have new sites secured in the next few weeks so that we stay ahead of the weather as much as possible.”

Reynolds also put out a plea for health care providers to partner with the state to increase access to testing in rural communities and smaller towns as part of a long-term testing strategy.

According to the Iowa Department of Public Health website Wednesday afternoon, nearly 714,000 Iowans had been tested since the outbreak of the coronavirus. Of those tests, 75,260 were positive for the virus, for a positivity rate of 10.7 percent. To date, 1,235 Iowans have died of COVID-19.

As of Wednesday morning, Iowa had 775 new confirmed coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours and one additional death.

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