Governor Kim Reynolds.

Governor Kim Reynolds says a public health “strike team” has been dispatched to Tama County to test employees of area nursing homes for COVID-19.

A nursing home in Toledo has been the site of an outbreak and Reynolds says that could increase the risk of exposure to residents in surrounding communities. “By proactively conducting surveillance testing of long term care employees in the area, we do have the opportunity again to isolate and identify positive cases early and potentially prevent exposing additional vulnerable residents,” Reynolds says.

Nurses are site today and tomorrow to conduct two types of testing. One is to see if a nursing home employee has the virus now. The other — a blood test — will determine if the person already had COVID-19 and may be immune to the virus now. Iowa Department of Public Health deputy director Sarah Reisetter says all employees of all the long-term care facilities in Tama County have been invited to participate at a site that’s not open to the public.

“There are still a lot of things we don’t know about this virus,” Reisetter says, “but one thing we do know is it spreads quickly and efficiently in settings where people work and live in close proximity to each other.”

At least three residents in a long-term care facility must test positive for COVID-19 before state officials declare an outbreak and 11 Iowa nursing homes so far have reached or exceeded that threshold.

“As we’ve seen in Iowa and other states despite best efforts to prevent the spread of the virus after it’s detected, devastating consequences can occur if it’s detected too late,” Reisetter says. “We want to do everything we can to prevent these tragedies from happening.”

The test site operating today and tomorrow in Tama County is not related to the TestIowa initiative Governor Reynolds unveiled yesterday.

More than 80,000 Iowans logged onto in the past 24 hours and answered questions to assess whether they meet the guidelines for COVID-19 testing. Reynolds says nearly 250 Iowans are now scheduled to be tested Saturday at a drive-through site in downtown Des Moines.

“And we’re identifying locations now for additional sites in other communities across the state,” Reynolds says.

To qualify for a test now, an Iowan must either have symptoms, interacted with someone who’s already tested positive for COVID or been in a virus “hot spot” like New Orleans or Chicago. Reynolds, though, is asking all Iowans to complete the Test-Iowa assessment — particularly Iowans who work in health care, law enforcement, manufacturing or other essential services.

“This again will help us understand the spread and scope of the virus,” the governor says, “and help see if our workforce have symptoms, we can get them the test and get them back on line.”

The state is paying a group of private companies based in Utah $26 million to run Test Iowa and she says the companies are responsible for acquiring the supplies to do the testing.

The governor announced this morning another 107 cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed in Iowa and the deaths of seven more Iowans have been linked to the illness. Half of the Iowans who have died of COVID-19 were residents of long term care facilities.