Iowa National Guard helps set up new “TestIowa” COVID-19 test site

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt Vincent De Groot
  • 185th Air Refueling Wing

Members of the Iowa Air and Army National Guard, working with the Iowa Department of Public Health helped set up a new COVID-19 test site this week in the Northwest Iowa hamlet of Sioux Center.

The Sioux Center site is one of a number of “TestIowa” COVID-19 test sites to be in operation since mid-April. A key concern for the TestIowa initiative includes communities that have meat processing plants in the state whose economy is largely dependent on agriculture or Ag related business.

Guard members have been assisting local and state agencies at drive through test sites in different locations throughout the state.

Senior Airman Manuel Zertuche from the 185th Air Refueling Wing in Sioux City, Iowa was suited up in personal protective equipment and lending a hand at the Sioux Center test site. The 2016 Sioux City East High School graduate is one of a group of 20 guard members helping out at the Sioux Center site. Zertuche is a full time student at the University of Iowa and works as a medical technician for the 185th Medical Group as a traditional member of the Iowa Air Guard.

“This is a great opportunity to put our military training to use,” Zertuche said. “It is good to help people out, help everyone stay safe and give some peace of mind,” he added.

According to the “TestIowa” website, community members who suspect they have been exposed or may have signs or symptoms of COVID-19 can be tested. Once eligible, residents are directed to makeshift locations like the one set up in the Sioux Center middle school parking lot.

Upon arrival at the site, guard members help direct people to medical staff where the test can be administered. The process is accomplished simply by having the person roll down their window in order to submit to a quick nasal swab.

The test site in Sioux Center has Iowa Air Guard Med Techs like Zetuche and Army Guard medics working along side civilian nurses and medical staff administering tests. The goal of the project is to help track the spread of COVID-19 in the Hawkeye State.

Each day samples collected from around the state are sent to the Iowa Hygienic Laboratory in Coralville. The distance from the site to the lab makes Sioux Center the most remote location where TestIowa COVID-19 testing is being done.

Once the samples are delivered they are processed with the goal of providing daily results.
Officials at the Sioux Center site said National Guard members plan to provided manning for the test site in Sioux Center until the end of next week or longer if necessary.

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