116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
With demand for COVID-19 tests waning, sites for Test Iowa — the free, statewide testing program — will be shut down by next month, Iowa public health officials announced Wednesday.
All five state-operated drive-through locations will stagger closures over the next five weeks before the program, which launched in April 2020, ends July 16.
Linn County’s site, on the southwest side of Cedar Rapids, will close at 4 p.m. June 24.
• June 23: Pottawattamie County
• June 24: Linn County
• June 25: Black Hawk County
• July 16: Polk County
• July 16: Scott County
As COVID-19 vaccines have become more widely available, state officials say demand for testing is at its lowest in more than a year. Approximately 400 tests per day currently are being conducted across 17 drive-through and clinic sites, according to state officials.
State officials also cited “significantly decreased” novel coronavirus activity as a reason for the closure. As of Wednesday, 93 of more than 5,500 COVID-19 tests were positive for the virus, or a 1.68 percent positivity rate, according to state coronavirus data.
The Iowa Department of Public Health and the State Hygienic Lab are finalizing plans to provide free, at-home COVID-19 test kits to Iowans after the end of the Test Iowa program, but state officials did not release details. More information will be available in the coming weeks, according to the announcement.
COVID-19 tests still are available at health care providers, pharmacies and other retail testing sites across the state.
The $26 million Test Iowa program was announced by Gov. Kim Reynolds during an April 2020 news conference after she signed a no-bid contract with Utah-based Nomi Health. Actor and Iowa native Ashton Kutcher had brought the tech company to her attention.
Since its launch, Test Iowa has tested nearly 644,000 individuals for COVID-19, according to state officials. Testing was at its highest on Nov. 23, 2020, when more than 6,700 individuals were tested for the virus.
According to the state’s coronavirus website, Test Iowa has completed more than 2 million assessments since its launch. The first drive-through testing site opened in Des Moines on April 25, 2020.
But within the first weeks of launching, Test Iowa was plagued with problems. It wasn’t until May 14, 2020 — three weeks later — that the state lab was able to validate the Test Iowa equipment and process.
News reports from around the state showed many Iowans initially experienced significant delays in receiving their test results. Some samples could not be tested at all.
Despite Reynolds’ promise the program could run as many as 5,000 COVID-19 tests on a single day, Gazette reporting found it wasn’t until June 2020 that Test Iowa had reached that benchmark. Records obtained by The Gazette also show officials with the State Hygienic Lab appeared to be caught off guard by the start of the initiative, and later questioned the program for its lack of on-site support.
In July, 2020 Iowa State Auditor Rob Sand released a report stating the program violated state law by failing to report COVID-19 test results to the Iowa Department of Public Health. The report said that once the State Hygienic Lab processed tests, the results were first sent to two private data companies before being sent to the state public health department.
Despite issues with the initial roll out, state officials praised Test Iowa for providing “a robust data platform to effectively manage its COVID-19 response” by tracking virus activity by ZIP code.
State officials continue to encourage Iowans to get tested for COVID-19 if they experience symptoms. People also should be tested if they have been exposed to an individual who has tested positive but have not been fully vaccinated yet. The public health department said it encourages Iowans aged 12 and older to be vaccinated against the disease.
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