Black Hawk Co. Sheriff: Test Iowa is a "$26 Million publicity stunt"

A vehicle in Waterloo at a TestIowa location for COVID-19 testing on Wednesday, April 29, 2020....
A vehicle in Waterloo at a TestIowa location for COVID-19 testing on Wednesday, April 29, 2020. (Marlon Hall/KCRG)(KCRG)
Published: May. 22, 2020 at 3:11 PM CDT
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Black Hawk County Sheriff Tony Thompson said he is done with "the enormous failure" of Test Iowa.

"The realities of Test Iowa appears to be a $26 million publicity stunt for the Governor and nothing more,” Thompson told KCRG-TV9.

The comments came as the Governor's Office reversed course on its plan to close the Test Iowa site in Waterloo and move it to Marshall County, which already had higher test rates and fewer cases than Black Hawk County. On Friday, the state changed its mind and decided to keep the Waterloo site open through May 28th.

The initial decision to close the Test Iowa site drew frustration from Sheriff Thompson at a news conference Thursday.

"I do have concerns regarding that, but that was a decision made at the Governor's level,' Thompson said.

The sheriff, who is leading the county's emergency response team, said local officials have been frustrated by slow results and a lack of coordination from the governor's office.

As of Monday, the county said it has only received 20 results from the Test Iowa site in Cedar Rapids and 16 of those were inconclusive.

Test Iowa is a $26 million contract with private companies that Governor Reynolds has touted as the solution to widespread testing. Since it started, Iowa has seen a rise in tests but it is unclear how much of that is due to TestIowa since the state said it will not separate TestIowa results from overall testing.

The Utah companies running TestIowa has also come under scrutiny for questionable test results. An investigation from the Salt Lake Tribune showed several health experts questioned the accuracy of the tests the Utah-based companies used on it's Test Utah effort. The companies later issued their own testing results showing its tests provided reliable results.

That is not the only issue that has plagued Test Iowa. Governor Reynolds acknowledged initial results were delayed due to a backlog at the State Hygenic Lab. She also admitted some test samples were damaged. The state has since opened a call center to field questions from Iowans about Test Iowa results.

This week, Reynolds announced plans to expand the TestIowa system to allow anyone who wanted a test to get one. A KCRG staffer with no symptoms or known exposures was able to fill out the Test Iowa form on Friday and get approved for a COVID-19 test if desired.