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Gov. Reynolds says decisions to reopen parts of Iowa 'isn't political'

This past weekend brought in the high reported number of Iowans contracting COVID-19: 757 on Saturday and 528 Sunday.

IOWA, USA — Gov. Kim Reynolds says that her efforts to reopen the state aren't political, but based on the numbers given to her by public health officials.

At her Monday morning press conference on the state's response to COVID-19, Reynolds defended her administration's decisions on reopening the state.

"This isn't political. That's one of the reasons I've been able to stand here every day and talk to Iowans about making decisions based on data and metrics," she said.

This past weekend brought in the high reported number of Iowans contracting COVID-19: 757 on Saturday and 528 Sunday. The amount of negative tests reported was also high, with 3,377 on Saturday and 2,932 reported Sunday. 

In total, 17,098 tests were administered last week, with Reynolds calling the increase a "significant accomplishment." 

Reynolds also said her administration is "working hard" to improve the timeliness of processing and reporting results. 

"You know, these are some of the hardest decisions that I've had to make as a governor of this great state," Reynolds said Monday. "We had a growing economy, our cash reserves are full. We had our fiscal health was strong. Iowans were doing well."

"Our unemployment rate was low and to have this pandemic hit the state and our country and have an impact Iowans and businesses and families in the manner that it has is heart wrenching."

Last week, the governor reported a delay in some of the test results. 

"Under normal circumstances individuals should get their test results in approximately 72 hours," Reynolds admitted. "But because of the high volume of tests being processed at the State Hygienic Lab last week and the ongoing validation process for TestIowa, we weren't able to meet that time frame for some Iowans."

Reynolds empathized and apologized to Iowans who've been waiting for their results.

"I know waiting for test results is difficult and I'm sorry for any concern that this may have caused you. I want to again reassure Iowans that this is short term issue, as we ramp up testing and processing and complete the TestIowa validation process," Reynolds said.

Some of the TestIowa machines are already being used to process tests, according to Reynolds. 

Over the weekend, the governor says TestIowa workers made "tremendous progress" to continue the validation process, but they had to allocate time to process the backlog of tests.

The backlog—which because of workers catching up over the weekend contributed to a spike in numbers—should be completed by Monday. 

WEEKEND UPDATES: COVID-19 live updates: 5 Woodward Resource residents test positive; Video shows a crowded Ledges State Park

But where is the money coming from to hire workers and fund the testing sites? 

Reynolds said her administration is utilizing government organizations to assist in COVID-19 response, including the National Guard, Homeland Security, Department of Transportation, and nurses from the Department of Human Services.

Reynolds said nurses that have been furloughed from their jobs are also being contracted to work at TestIowa locations. Some are also volunteering.

Money allocated from the CARES Act is also being utilized to fund these sites, as well as FEMA.

Iowans might not ever find out where their peers are being tested at, as Reynolds said that since the beginning of the pandemic, Iowa hasn't separated where people were tested. 

Sarah Reisetter with the Iowa Department of Public Health said there isn't a reason to separate tests from the TestIowa sites and others because "the TestIowa equipment is going through the exact same kind of validation that all of the other tests" have gone through.

Since all of theses tests go through the same validation process, IDPH says it's safe to say that TestIowa equipment is just as accurate as other tests. 

WATCH: Gov.  Kim Reynolds' full press conference for May 4, 2020

Reisetter also explained why the Tyson Foods processing plant in Perry won't release information about employees that have tested positive.

A state statute referenced by Dr. Caitlin Pedati, Iowa's State Medical Director, talks about her ability to release information regarding names and businesses when it's in the interest of the public's health. 

Reisetter said they'll be confirming that information on Monday in terms of where they've seen outbreaks and whether or not it's in the public's best interest to know. 

That information should be available in the next few days, according to Reisetter.

Businesses are required to contact public health when 10% of their workforce contract COVID-19.

Reisetter said that if you get a negative result but still have symptoms, you should continue to seek health care. 

"If you are sick, and you have had a negative test that doesn't mean that you should not seek health care, you should call your doctor's office, see if you need to be reevaluated," Reisetter explained.

For those who can't get a test, Reynolds said to get a second opinion or take the TestIowa assessment. She also stressed the need to stay home and isolate if you're experiencing any coronavirus symptoms.

WATCH: Complete coronavirus coverage from Local 5 on YouTube

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