Staff Columnist

Test Iowa: Was Kim Reynolds Punk'd?

A medical worker gives a thumbs up to a resident after taking a sample for testing for the coronavirus Covid19 at the Te
A medical worker gives a thumbs up to a resident after taking a sample for testing for the coronavirus Covid19 at the Test Iowa site at the Kirkwood Continuing Education Training Center, 101 50th Avenue SW, in southwest Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Thursday, May 7, 2020. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

On May 11, Gov. Reynolds said that Test Iowa had processed “about 3,100” tests last week. Which is far short of the 3,000 per day we were promised.

The program began on April 24 and three weeks in has yet to even come close to reaching its goal. Despite that, Iowa still is reopening.

Reports out of the lab confirmed by the governor last week, that the 10 Test Iowa machines sent to Iowa by Nomi Health are not working and can’t be validated by lab employees. Instead, the lab is using other machines to run the tests and the process is going slowly.

Test Iowa was the $26 million magician’s cape purchased to make the problems of the global pandemic in our state just disappear. But only successful magic trick was when Nomi Health and CoDiagnostics, made a lot of money of the deaths and fears of Iowans, but took on none of the liability.

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The problem isn’t the lab. Last year, Gov. Kim Reynolds and the Republicans cut the budget for the State Hygienic Lab and many employees were laid off. They were told to “do more with less.” Now the reduced staff is working overtime to make magic work with $26 million dollar broken machines, just so Iowa can declare itself a success. This is the epitome of the “stop hitting yourself” school of governance — pull the rug out on a state agency and then ask them to save us with an untested system.

On May 12, Reynolds said that the Test Iowa machines will be validated in the next 24 hours and reports out of the lab confirm this. But Iowans still have no clarity on the program that was designed by a tech company with no health care experience, sold to our governor by the host of the TV show “Punk’d” and used to assure us there is no more pandemic behind that curtain.

Meanwhile Iowans are reporting that their Test Iowa tests aren’t being processed and some are being reported as “inconclusive.” The Des Moines Register reported on May 12, about mounting frustration with Test Iowa results, which many Iowans aren’t receiving even three weeks after being tested. Additionally, the Register reported that very small numbers of people are being tested at the Test Iowa sites popping up around the state. In Cedar Rapids, “67 coronavirus tests were conducted on Thursday at the Test Iowa site, the first day of testing in Linn County. The next day, 59 tests were administered at the site.” Still far short of the 3,000 tests per day.

Both State Auditor Rob Sand and former Gov. Chet Culver have written letters to Reynolds demanding more answers on the Test Iowa initiative. Both letters have been ignored by the Governor’s office. Instead, Reynolds continues opening up Iowa for business. Even as a White House report names Des Moines as one of the 10 hot spots for COVID-19 spread in the nation.

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Test Iowa numbers are being reported with the rest of the testing numbers around the state, so there are no answers on what is working and how our state’s money was spent. Reporters asking questions have been met with no response from the governor’s office.

CoDiagnostics, who received emergency use authorization by the FDA for their COVID-19 kits in April, claims their tests are 100 percent accurate, which experts I contacted say is virtually impossible. It’s a ridiculous claim on an any test, much less an unproven test. But because of the Test Iowa, Nebraska and Utah initiatives and recent authorization to sell the tests in Mexico, Codiagnostics stock is skyrocketing.

Test Iowa was the $26 million magician’s cape purchased to make the problems of the global pandemic in our state just disappear. But only successful magic trick was when Nomi Health and CoDiagnostics, made a lot of money of the deaths and fears of Iowans, but took on none of the liability.

To date, Iowa has the 14th-highest number of COVID-19 cases among all 50 states. Epidemiologist and physician who oversees researchers studying infection prevention at the University of Iowa and Iowa City’s VA Hospital, Dr. Eli Perencivitch, aired his frustration on social media, stating: “Time to open up malls? No. The failures of Iowa’s policies won’t be seen for 2-3 weeks. There is no widespread testing, there is no evidence of contact tracing and absolutely no discussion of PPE (face shields) to protect Iowans.”

Like any magic trick, it’s all sleight of hand. The rabbit never disappears into the hat, the dove does not come out of nowhere. Like the virus, they are all out of sight, just waiting to return.

lyz.lenz@thegazette.com; (319) 450-0547

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