CORONAVIRUS

How many daily COVID-19 tests in Iowa are retests? It's hard to know

Nancy Reasland, pandemic response coordinator at Cornell College, places fluid taken from a nasal swab onto a COVID-19 t
Nancy Reasland, pandemic response coordinator at Cornell College, places fluid taken from a nasal swab onto a COVID-19 test at the Student Health Center at Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa, Monday, Sept. 14, 2020. The antigen test used by the college uses a self-administered nasal swab sample, which isn't as uncomfortable as a nasopharyngeal swab sample. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Earlier in the pandemic, we asked readers: What questions do about COVID-19 in Iowa?

Readers sent in many questions, and so The Gazette asked you to vote on what question you want answered.

Readers chose: What percentage of daily tests are retests?

Unfortunately, we do not have a clear answer. The state does not disclose how many COVID-19 tests reported daily on its website are “retests,” or individuals being tested more than once.

However, we do have some indication that it is common for Iowans to take a COVID-19 test more than once through the Test Iowa program.

Test Iowa, the $26 million state testing program run by a Utah-based company, reports its results through the Iowa Disease Surveillance System, which is an electronic system used to monitor disease reporting and surveillance across Iowa. The data is then published on the public-facing state website, coronavirus.iowa.gov.

But a data error on Iowa’s coronavirus website backdated individual positive test results, erroneously recording them as having happened in March, April, May and June and thus not showing the severity of more recent outbreaks.

Instead of counting a positive test result when it would have occurred in recent weeks, the state website would backdate the results. This occurred when an Iowan tested negative earlier in the year, and the glitch would cause the recent positive result to be labeled instead under the previous negative result.

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Iowa City Nurse Practioner Dana Jones uncovered the problem and raised the issue with state public health officials last month, according to the Associated Press.

Iowa’s top public health official acknowledged the issue in an interview with The Gazette Aug. 19, adding that officials had fixed the issue.

In addition, the state also began including antigen test results in the state’s database of COVID-19 results. Antigen tests are rapid diagnostic tests meant to detect the virus, and are usually easier and faster than other types of tests.

Have other questions about COVID-19?

Share them with us in the form below and we’ll try to answer them.

 

Can’t see the form? Click here for a direct link.

Comments: (319) 398-8469; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

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If you believe local news is essential, especially during this crisis, please subscribe. Your subscription will support news resources to cover the impact of the pandemic on our local communities.