The Iowa Department of Public Health will add the results of nearly 27,000 antigen tests to its coronavirus website over the weekend.
The new batch of test results come from long-term care facilities that have been conducting surveillance testing on staff members during the month of September, according to an IDPH news release.
Of the nearly 27,000 antigen tests being added onto the site, about 300 of them are positive — a positivity rate of 1.1%, according to the release.
On Aug. 26, The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued an interim final rule that long-term care facilities routinely test staff members and others working at the facility. The federal government has been providing facilities with antigen testing equipment.
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More than half of Iowa’s 1,307 COVID-19 deaths have occurred among residents of long-term care facilities.
The public reporting of these test results has taken time, the news release said, because long-term care facilities cannot submit the results directly to the state’s electronic reporting system. But the IDPH release said the department has created a new reporting tool that will let the facilities report the results to the state more quickly.
Antigen tests look for molecules on the surface of the virus and can produce results in hours. They aren’t quite as accurate as PCR tests, which are the kind used by the state’s Test Iowa program, but antigen tests provide much more rapid results. PCR tests look for pieces of the virus and can take several days to produce results.
Last month, as more Iowa clinics, hospitals and employers began using antigen tests, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced the Iowa Department of Public Health would begin counting the results of antigen tests along with the results of PCR tests. The state had previously been classifying the results of the antigen tests as “inconclusive.”
The addition of the new tests will more than double the number of antigen tests reported on the state website, and the 27,000 tests represent well above the typical number of overall test results logged on the state website in a day. Currently, the most tests logged in one day was Monday’s total of 16,296.
As of 5 p.m. Friday, the state’s coronavirus website had logged 766,798 total tests since the beginning of the pandemic, with a positivity rate of 11%. Of those, 746,535 tests were PCR tests and 20,263 were antigen tests.
Ian Richardson covers the Iowa Statehouse for the Des Moines Register. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org, at 515-284-8254, or on Twitter at @DMRIanR.
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