CORONAVIRUS

Some Test Iowa results 'inconclusive,' Linn County officials say

334 people tested in first four days of opening Cedar Rapids site

Medical workers put samples that will be tested for COVID-19 into a cooler May 7 at the Test Iowa site at the Kirkwood C
Medical workers put samples that will be tested for COVID-19 into a cooler May 7 at the Test Iowa site at the Kirkwood Continuing Education Training Center, 101 50th Ave. SW in Cedar Rapids. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Only 334 people were tested for the coronavirus disease over the first four days of a new drive-through site in Cedar Rapids, according to health officials, and a “fairly large amount” of those results were deemed inconclusive, Linn County Supervisor Stacey Walker said Wednesday.

The Cedar Rapids testing location is one of eight drive-though sites in Iowa that have opened or are about to as part of the Test Iowa Initiative.

In announcing the initiative April 21, Gov. Kim Reynolds said that “the ability to conduct large-scale assessment and testing is critical to understand how prevalent this disease is and how it’s evolving.”

The state signed a $26 million, no-bid contract with a Utah company to supply over 500,00 test kits and machines to help run the tests.

But Walker said almost 10 percent of the results from the Cedar Rapids location were found inconclusive — and that it’s “troubling” it took “five to six days” to get any results at all.

“That’s a very long time in between when these tests were administered and when our public health officials were able to begin acting on it and start contact tracing,” Walker said.

Linn County Public Health requested to be in charge of contact tracing for Linn County residents tested at Test Iowa sites. The state has said the National Guard is helping at other sites.

The site that opened May 7 in Cedar Rapids is limited to essential workers who qualify for testing after filling out an online assessment at TestIowa.com. It is to continue operating for about two weeks.

Test Iowa needs to figure out if the coronavirus tests are being administered incorrectly, if there’s an issue with how samples are stored or if it’s the “integrity of the test itself,” Walker said.

Reynolds’ spokesman Pat Garrett said the state is seeing 1 to 2 percent of Test Iowa results come back inconclusive, which is “not unique to Test Iowa.” Garrett said people who get inconclusive test results should talk to their health care providers about whether they need to self-isolate.

The process for validating the testing process at the State Hygienic Lab, which is checking out the equipment supplied by the Utah company, is not finished yet, Reynolds told reporters.

“Hopefully by tomorrow we’ll be able to have the system validated,” the governor said, praising the lab for going “above and beyond.”

Linn County Public Health Director Pramod Dwivedi said public health is a “team sport” that requires local, state and federal cooperation.

“That’s kind of breaking down here,” he said. “It’s very sad.”

As of Wednesday at noon, a total of 863 Linn County residents had tested positive for the coronavirus and 648 had recovered. There were 152 active cases, and 63 people have died as a result of the virus.

Comments: (319) 368-8664; grace.king@thegazette.com

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