All of Iowa’s COVID-19 testing data goes through third party companies, potentially illegally

Published: Sep. 2, 2020 at 7:16 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Every COVID-19 test in the state of Iowa goes through a third party company before being reported to the state health department, according to a spokesperson from the governor’s office.

The reporting procedure for every COVID-19 test mirrors the same reporting process as a TestIowa test, a process that a report in July from the Iowa State Auditor’s office considered potentially illegal and exposed taxpayers to potential legal liabilities because there is more risk a mistake is made with the data.

Pat Garret, the spokesperson for the Governor’s office, described the process to I9: a test gets processed in a lab where the result is developed, then it sends the information to a third party company involved in the $26 million dollar no-bid contract that brought TestIowa to the state. Then, he said the data gets put into the Iowa Disease Surveillance System, which alerts the Iowa Department of Public Health.

“So when we send a test result to the lab,” Garret said. “The lab doesn’t kick us back out, this is a TestIowa positive, this isn’t a this test positive.”

Garret said it allows them to easily compile all the results collectively and is part of the reason Iowa can’t track the number of positive, negative, or inconclusive tests performed by TestIowa or any other manufacturer, which I9 reported last Wednesday. I9 was able to get how many test TestIowa performed over a given time period after threatening lawsuits over the data.

This contradicts a letter sent from the Iowa Attorney General’s office to the Auditor’s office. The letter said two companies, Qaultrics and Domo, only see results from TestIowa tests.

Rob Sand, who is the state’s auditor, said his office was notified from that letter there were multiple methods of reporting data.

“The Attorney General’s office relayed different information systems for submitting the information about the tests to public health for Test Iowa and then other tests that were not a part of Test Iowa,” Sand said.

Sand’s report also said the State Hygienic Lab reports all other results immediately to the Iowa Department of Public Health. This would contradict the process described by the state, which they said would not allow it to separate the positivity rate from test Iowa tests.

Nomi Health, who is a Utah based company running TestIowa, is also performing a similar service in Utah and Nebraska.

The Salt Lake Tribune uncovered Nomi Health’s tests in Utah were getting positive results at a dramatically lower rate than tests done elsewhere in the state.

Our I9 team found on Friday, the state is under-reporting the positive rate of COVID-19 tests in the state on their website to show the state of the pandemic is better than reality. Iowa’s Governor’s Office said the differences in data reporting is partially from private labs on Saturday.

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