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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Gov. Kim Reynolds recently turned away nearly $100 million in federal aid intended for COVID-19 testing in schools, she disclosed during a nationally televised event last week. Back home in Iowa, we’re wondering if that money could have been put to good use.
The governor made the reveal during a panel discussion of GOP governors on Fox News: “I said we’ve been in the classroom since August — here’s your $95 million back.”
For months, Reynolds has been rushing into reopening even as the coronavirus pandemic persists. Schools have been at the forefront of Reynolds’ effort: Iowa last year was one of the first states to resume school sports and lawmakers this year passed a law requiring all districts to offer a 100 percent in-person learning option.
Iowa public health officials wrote in a letter to the federal government that no schools in Iowa have claimed expenses for testing supplies or services. Maybe that’s because there is no widespread surveillance testing among Iowa school children.
Instead, students and staff rely on the Test Iowa system available to the general public or on their own health providers. Those federal dollars would have provided an opportunity to collect more valuable data about the public health crisis.
It’s true that children are unlikely to suffer severe effects from COVID-19 and are less likely than adults to transmit the virus. But testing and tracing young Iowans still would be a powerful tool to track the disease’s spread throughout the state.
Federal dollars come with strings attached, but the money rejected by Iowa officials could have been used for a long list of purposes related to testing in schools. It’s hard to imagine school districts and local public health departments couldn’t have found a good use for it.
We suspect Reynolds shunned the school testing resources in part because she was worried about what it might reveal — that the number of young Iowans who have been infected with the novel coronavirus is much higher than currently known. Such a revelation would challenge Reynolds’ narrative about safely reopening schools.
Reynolds, once again, is putting politics before the science.
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