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Benton County Public Health has received many questions from residents about how and when individuals are tested for COVID-19, and what happens after the testing is completed.

"The health and well-being of our county's residents is our number one concern," said Benton County Public Health Director Katie Cox. "Testing is a critical component of the response to COVID-19, but the most important thing everyone needs to remember is that if they are having severe symptoms, they should contact their health care provider right away."

At the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, only the State Hygienic Lab (SHL) could conduct testing. Now, a number of state and national labs are performing tests, in addition to SHL. Tests performed by Benton County Public Health are analyzed at SHL. These tests are currently performed according to the following criteria:

* Hospitalized patient (of any age) with fever or respiratory illness for diagnosis or any hospitalized patient prior to discharge to a long-term care facility or other nursing care facility.

* Older adult (> 60 years of age) with fever or respiratory symptoms (e.g., cough, difficulty breathing) and chronic medical conditions (e.g., diabetes, heart disease, immunosuppressive medications, chronic lung disease, or chronic kidney disease)

* Person of any age with fever or respiratory illness who lives in a congregate setting (i.e., long term care facilities, dormitories, residential facilities, correctional facilities, treatment facilities)

* Healthcare worker, essential services personnel, first responder or critical infrastructure worker with fever or respiratory illness (e.g., healthcare worker, fire and EMS, law enforcement, residential facility staff)

Other health care providers, like doctor offices or clinics, can test outside of these criteria if the provider believes a test is needed. Local public health agencies and health care providers are able to test without approval from the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH).

All positive test results are sent to IDPH, which then notifies the local public health agency in the county the confirmed case lives. Depending on who ordered the test, either the local public health agency or the health care provider contacts the individual with the test results. In either case, the county public health agency then interviews the individual with the positive test result to find out who in their household may have been exposed to the virus, and to give information about self-isolation.

If an individual that tests positive is a health care worker, the employer is also notified, and appropriate steps are taken. If more than three people at a long-term care center, or several people at a business test positive, the county and state work with the employer to take special actions to prevent further spread of the virus.

For up-to-date information on COVID-19, including a new interactive map of COVID-19 cases in Iowa, visit and follow the department on Facebook at @IowaDepartmentOfPublicHealth and on Twitter at @IAPublicHealth.


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