Health

126 tested for coronavirus in first two days of drive-through site in Cedar Rapids

Linn County officials consider keeping county building closed into June

Medical workers take coronavirus test swabs Thursday from people at a drive-through Test Iowa site at Kirkwood Community
Medical workers take coronavirus test swabs Thursday from people at a drive-through Test Iowa site at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids. On Monday, the Linn County public health director reported 126 tests were completed Thursday and Friday. The Test Iowa site, available by appointment for essential workers, is to continue operating for two weeks. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — In its first two days of operation, the Test Iowa site in Cedar Rapids tested 126 people for the coronavirus, the Linn County public health director said Monday, the same day county supervisors considered keeping county buildings closed into June.

Public Health Director Pramod Dwivedi told county supervisors Monday morning he had yet to receive any results from the Test Iowa drive-through site operated by the state at Kirkwood Community College.

Linn County public health workers, he said, are to be in charge of contact tracing for anyone who tests positive for the virus. He said he is working with the state Department of Public Health to gain access to the test results.

The drive-through testing, for now, is limited to essential workers who qualify for testing after filling out an online application. The Test Iowa site is to continue operating for two weeks.

When Gov. Kim Reynolds launched the Test Iowa initiative at the end of April, she had a goal of testing up to 3,000 Iowans a day.

Supervisor Stacey Walker said the state hasn’t been “anywhere close to those numbers.”

As of Monday, Dwivedi said, Linn County had 834 confirmed cases of COVID-19; 587 people have recovered, and 58 people have died.

Extending Closure Of Linn County Buildings

Supervisors on Monday also discussed extending the closure of county buildings to sometime in June. The buildings currently are closed until May 17.

A vote is expected on that idea at noon Wednesday during the supervisors’ virtual meeting.

Supervisor Brent Oleson on Monday proposed extending the closures until at least June 8 or 15.

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“We want to open up safely and not all in just one shot,” Oleson said. “When we say ‘open up,’ that doesn’t mean we’re going back to business as it was in February.”

The county is installing plexiglass barriers and decals on the floor to maintain social distancing when buildings do open.

Supervisors also are considering policies such as requiring all employees and visitors to wear masks inside county buildings and allowing some employees too continue to work from home with their supervisor’s permission.

The county has purchased 2,000 cloth masks for employees, or about two masks per person, and 5,000 reusable masks for visitors who may not have a cloth mask or other face covering.

A security guard will be posted at the Jean Oxley Public Service Center, 935 Second St. SW, and the Harris Building, 1020 Sixth St. SE, where public health is located, for at least three months after county buildings have opened to the public.

Walker challenged other county officials to think about what life after the pandemic will look like for county government.

“We will have a new normal, that much is obvious,” he said. “How can we, as best we can, put ourselves in a position to be more competitive, more innovative, experiment with ideas that could help us improve our culture and set an example for other public and private sectors?”

The next county news conference updating the public about coronavirus will be at 3:30 p.m. Thursday. The Monday news conference was canceled.

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Past news conferences are posted on Linn County Public Health’s Facebook page.

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

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