Des Moines students and families will soon have more COVID testing options

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By Grant Gerlock, Iowa Public Radio

Des Moines Public Schools is working with Nomi Health, one of the companies behind the Test Iowa program, to provide coronavirus testing for students, staff and their families.

Starting Monday, two drive-through sites will begin offering both rapid tests and PCR tests six days a week. The sites will be at Hoover High School in north Des Moines and the Kurtz Opportunity Center on the south side.

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DMPS families will be given priority but each test site will also have a line for the general public.

The new sites are opening at a time when children are making up a larger share of new coronavirus cases in Iowa. According to Polk County health officials, DMPS has seen more than 200 new cases among students and staff in each of the past two weeks.

Supt. Thomas Ahart said the testing sites are the district’s next step in limiting the impact of the pandemic.

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“Our priority at DMPS throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has been to meet the educational needs of our students while doing everything we can to keep them and our staff healthy and safe,” Ahart said in a statement. “This is another piece to our mitigation efforts to make sure COVID-19 impacts this school year as little as possible.”

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Des Moines was also one of the first districts to begin requiring masks after a federal judge blocked enforcement of Iowa’s ban on school-imposed mask mandates.

The district will only see indirect costs from the program, according to spokesperson Phil Roeder, such as providing the space for the test sites and helping to publicize the tests.

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There is no charge to be tested. The cost of providing the tests will be covered either by a person’s health insurance or through a federal reimbursement program. Staffing will be provided by Nomi Health.

DMPS decided against in-school testing, Roeder said, because school nurses are already busy managing COVID on top of their other work. Also, he said it would be difficult to set aside space in each school, and to get consent from parents in a timely way. He said the district is still looking at possibly sending test kits home with students.

People interested in being tested for the coronavirus at one of the drive-through sites are being asked to register in advance online. There is no set end-date for the testing program.

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