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UPDATE: Experts validating test results from new program, governor says

UPDATE: Experts validating test results from new program, governor says

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DES MOINES -- While new coronavirus tests in a Utah program are being called into question, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, whose state is using a similar program to expand testing here, said Thursday that experts at a state lab are working to ensure the accuracy of the program’s test results.

But a state public health official said the department does not plan to publish test results from the new program separately from other tests administered in Iowa.

Iowa contracted with the Utah-based private health care software company Nomi on a $26 million program to ramp up coronavirus testing here. The program, TestIowa, is based on a similar program first implemented in Utah.

The Salt Lake City Tribune reported Thursday that the rate of positive tests among people tested at TestUtah sites is less than half of what it is for patients tested elsewhere in the state. According to the Tribune, 2 percent of symptomatic patients at TestUtah’s sites have tested positive for coronavirus since April 1. That’s less than half of the 5 percent of patients who have tested positive at other Utah sites, the Tribune reported, raising concerns about the accuracy of the TestUtah tests.

The Tribune cited Utah state public health data in its reporting.

But Iowa’s public health department does not plan to report TestIowa results separately from other test results in Iowa, a state official said Thursday. Some TestIowa results have already been included in the state’s daily reporting, state public health deputy director Sarah Reisetter said.

During her daily briefing on the state’s pandemic response efforts, Reynolds said experts at the state hygienic lab at the University of Iowa are working to ensure the TestIowa results are accurate and providing reliable information.

“That’s why we have TestIowa located at the state hygienic lab. We’re working with a team that is very qualified, that have been doing (infectious disease) testing for a long, long time. There’s a lot of expertise in that lab,” Reynolds said from the State Emergency Operations Center at Camp Dodge in Johnston. “That’s why they’re taking the time that they are, to make sure that they’re validating the process so that we can ensure Iowans that the results that they are receiving are accurate. … I feel confident that we’ll be able to demonstrate that to Iowans.”

Reynolds has said expanded testing, driven by the TestIowa program, is one reason she felt comfortable relaxing some of the virus mitigation policies for some businesses in 77 of the state’s 99 counties, where virus activity has not been as widespread. The newly relaxed policies, which include the re-opening of restaurants and bars that serve food, go into effect Friday.

For the second consecutive day Thursday, the state confirmed a new single-day high with 14 new deaths related to the new coronavirus.

The state confirmed 12 deaths on Wednesday. A total of 162 Iowa deaths have been confirmed since the virus first appeared here in early March.

There were 302 confirmed cases announced Wednesday, for a total of 7,145.

Across the state, 335 people were hospitalized due to the virus — another new single-day high — including 49 who were admitted in the past 24 hours, according to state public health data.

The highest number of cases and hospitalizations remain concentrated in central and eastern Iowa. The north central, northwest and southwest regions, which cover half of the state, combined for just 70 of the 335 hospitalizations, and 51 of those were in Woodbury County.

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State house reporter for The Courier/Lee Enterprises.

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