Governor, top Iowa health official: mosts Iowans will not need to be tested for COVID-19

Gov. Kim Reynolds and State Medical Director Caitlin Pedati released two videos discussing testing criteria for COVID-19 and how Iowans can best prevent the spread of the virus by practicing social distancing and staying home.


Ben Allan Smith

Kim Reynolds talks at Hy-Vee in Coralville during her 99 Counties tour on Thursday, April 5, 2018.

Rachel Schilke, News Reporter

 Iowans who believe they might have the coronavirus should stay home and rest, rather than immediately going to the clinics to be tested, said Gov. Kim Reynolds in a series of videos.

Reynolds and Caitlin Pedati, a Des Moines pediatrician and State Medical Director released two videos on Wednesday discussing testing criteria for the coronavirus and how Iowa plans to implement President Trump’s 15-day plan to control the spread of COVID-19. This comes after nine more people in the state have tested positive for the coronavirus, bringing Iowa’s total up to 38 positive cases.

Pedati said in the video that the most important thing that Iowans need to understand is that not everyone will need to be tested — about 80 percent of those infected will have mild symptoms, and can recover by staying home. 

According to the World Health Organization, the symptoms from coronavirus include, runny nose, sore throat, cough, and fever

In severe cases, difficulty breathing or pneumonia can set in, according to the organization’s website.

“When we think about what we do for colds or flu-like illnesses, what we will [say] is to stay home, get plenty of rest, drink fluids, wash your hands, and cover your cough,” Pedati said. “For most Iowans, this will be a mild illness, and the tools of social distancing and staying home are going to be the most important things to do.”

Reynolds said that nationally, testing supplies are limited, and asked Pedati for her advice on what Iowans can do to make sure the supplies are not being wasted.

Pedati said that testing hospital patients that already have COVID-19 will be a priority so doctors can see what COVID-19 symptoms look like.

“We want to think about what will make the most difference for our patients,” Pedati said.

Reynolds and Pedati’s recommendation comes as testing restrictions loosen and more companies in the private sector as well as public institutions begin ramping up production of tests. Although, competition for testing materials becomes fiercer as diagnoses become more frequent and more urgent. The U.S. now has at least 8,000 confirmed positive cases.

Reynolds announced Monday that Iowa City’s State Hygienic Laboratory, which has conducted the bulk of the state’s tests for the virus, has added a second shift to handle a higher volume of tests. Iowa also began sending tests nationally, Reynolds said. 

A Coralville company began mass producing a key component of the test and UI Hospitals and Clinics told their staff in an email that within the next week or two, the UI would have developed its own test to administer.

In guidance from the Iowa Department of Public Health updated March 12, those that were prioritized for testing included

  • Hospital patients with fever and respiratory failure and no alternate diagnosis. 
  • Hospitalized older adults with fever and respiratory symptoms and chronic medical conditions.
  • Anyone who’d come into household contact with a laboratory confirmed case of COVID-19
  • Anyone with a history of international travel to a country with a Level 3 CDC travel health warning or have taken an international cruise in the two weeks before becoming ill and no alternate diagnosis.

Pedati also said that it is important that health care personnel are closely monitored and tested, due to doctors’ use of personal equipment. This can be face masks, gloves, and gowns, she added, that protect illnesses from getting spread from one patient to another.

She added that if people who might have COVID-19 are going to be told to just stay home and get rest, there is no reason for them to be tested. Pedati said Iowans should call their doctor before reaching out to the clinics.

In her second video, Reynolds said that the state will actively support Trump’s 15-day plan and gave advice on how individuals can follow the plan, as well.

She said the lead role will be for people to stay home if they, their children, or a family member is feeling sick, and practice social distancing at all times.

Reynolds said that while some people do not have the option of not going into work, employees should communicate with their employers and consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to go over guidelines for self-isolation.

“We all have a role to play,” Reynolds said, “…and now is when our actions matter the most. We can do this.”