116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
This past week, I had my first COVID-19 test and my first experience as a patient of the Test Iowa program.
I was pleasantly surprised.
I wanted to share a bit about the experience, as we've spent a significant amount of time in The Gazette covering the testing program's setup, implementation and validation of testing.
I also received some heated feedback after the editorial board, of which I'm part, called the Test Iowa program a failure. Not surprisingly, the editorial didn't go unnoticed by the governor's staff.
Much of our editorial opinion at the time had to do with the administrative side of the test. My concerns about administrative details remain.
But I feel it would be unfair if I didn't share that the testing experience exceeded my expectations as a patient. I appreciated having Test Iowa as a testing option and would urge anyone needing a test to consider it.
Quick details about my case: I showed no symptoms but had indirect contact with someone about 12 days earlier who had since tested positive for COVID-19.
I felt fine, but as a dad and a manager who has spent months using masks, social distancing, limiting contact and reading media stories from around the world, I still needed a definitive answer.
Test Iowa worked well for me. I opted to use it to understand the system and because I didn't have an urgent medical need.
I was able to make an appointment online on my first attempt Friday night. An email gave me clear directions about what I needed to do.
The Cedar Rapids Test Iowa site was full, and while I wasn't thrilled about driving to Waterloo, finding the test site there was easy. The staffers were fantastic and skilled at what they were doing.
The person administering the test helped put me at ease about how the swab would fit and skillfully administered the test. I was on my way within two minutes.
I had my test results within 24 hours, significantly faster than the two to three days I had been promised. The results were easy to understand, and the process for logging in to get them was quick.
I'd be remiss if I didn't first say thank you to the many people who have worked tirelessly to start the Test Iowa program in extremely difficult circumstances and to those who staff the test sites and process the results. The system worked well.
Still, areas of the program should be refined. While I was able to make an appointment using the online tool, I had to pick the Waterloo site. I wasn't able to see the next available appointment in Cedar Rapids.
Driving 50 miles is a barrier for many Iowans, and not being able to know the next available appointment is just frustrating.
The other thing that surprised me was how empty the Waterloo test site was. I was able to drive in immediately, and only one other car was there. I received a similar report from those undergoing testing in Cedar Rapids at about the same time. It's unclear to me why more appointments can't be made in a specified time period, and it's something we'll look into further.
Crafting editorials is a difficult exercise, but my Test Iowa patient experience now becomes part of the collective knowledge that helps shape opinions going forward.
The new information provides us opportunities to refine and revisit our previous positions. It's a responsibility that our editorial board doesn't take lightly.
Zack Kucharski is executive editor of The Gazette.