Celsi: More testing, oversight needed

So far, TestIowa has not delivered on its contractual promise to test at least 5,000 people per day. Sen. Celsi is calling for expanded testing in cooperation with other entities.

For Immediate Release: May 13, 2020

More Widespread Testing, Government Oversight is Needed in Iowa

Des Moines, Iowa (May 13, 2020) – State Senator Claire Celsi is calling on Governor Kim Reynolds to expand testing in cooperation with other entities in order to provide a larger testing footprint in Iowa. So far, TestIowa has not delivered on its contractual promise to test at least 5,000 people per day.

“I am hearing reports from all over the state,” said Senator Claire Celsi. “People who have significant symptoms and/or exposure to COVID-19 are not being selected to receive a test. Also, people who have been tested are still not receiving their results in a timely manner. I am calling on Governor Kim Reynolds to hold TestIowa accountable for their promises.”

“At this point, she should not hesitate to add more testing from other entities to fill the gap,” said Celsi.   “Iowans cannot wait. Governor Reynolds is planning to open up the state. The only defense we have is knowing who has tested positive for COVID-19. We must act now to make sure our testing is adequate to protect Iowans. People want to get back to normal, but to do so safely and with confidence people can get the testing they need.”

Many Iowans are being told to “contact their health provider” to be considered for a test. However, the providers are not able to test all people – they must meet significant criteria in order to qualify for a test. Even people who have been exposed to COVID-19 in nursing homes, jails and hospitals sometimes do not qualify.

“Mitigation efforts will not be adequate until our state has the capacity to test, at a minimum, all symptomatic individuals as well as asymptomatic individuals with suspected COVID-19 exposure or who work in high-risk environments,” said Dr. Austin Baeth, an internal medicine physician in Des Moines. “It is widely held among epidemiologists that premature resumption of economic activity before implementing robust testing and contact tracing poses a substantial risk of resurgence of COVID-19.” 

Lorna Truck, a retired librarian who lives in West Des Moines, wrote to Celsi recently, pleading for more testing for all who have been exposed to the COVID-19.

“Even though there have been several confirmed cases in a long-term care facility where Lorna’s mother lives, the facility has been denied additional testing, despite Reynolds’ claim to have testing available for all residents and employees of nursing homes. We need to change that immediately,” said Celsi.

“As Iowa moves into the next phase of reopening, our state will receive a significant amount of money from the Federal Government to boost testing and contact tracing,” said Celsi, “I urge Governor Reynolds to spend that money bolstering county public health departments and Iowa-based testing labs instead of giving more money to unproven and unsatisfactory testing companies like TestIowa.”

Celsi suggests that eventually Iowa should be testing 10,000 people per day and that number should include all Iowans who request a test as well as a significant sampling of asymptomatic people to monitor the spread and activity level of COVID19. Moving toward fall when many expect schools to reopen, this knowledge will be essential information for workers, students and all services that support school districts, like transportation and food service.

Senator Celsi is a member of the Senate Government Oversight Committee.  She plans to ask the Iowa Senate’s Republican leadership to hold a committee meeting dedicated to the TestIowa $26 million no-bid contract.  The meeting would focus on recovering the state funds given to TestIowa or requiring TestIowa to use different, more effective equipment to fulfill the terms of their contract.