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Iowa National Guard helps set up COVID-19 test site

Iowa Air National Guard Senior Airman Manuel Zertuche, a 185th Air Refueling Wing medical technician, works with medical staff to administer a COVID-19 test at the Sioux Center, Iowa, “TestIowa” site May 27, 2020.

Iowa Air National Guard Senior Airman Manuel Zertuche, a 185th Air Refueling Wing medical technician, works with medical staff to administer a COVID-19 test at the Sioux Center, Iowa, “TestIowa” site May 27, 2020.

SIOUX CENTER, Iowa – Members of the Iowa Air and Army National Guard, working with the Iowa Department of Public Health, helped set up a COVID-19 test site in Northwest Iowa.

The site in the hamlet of Sioux Center is one of a number of “TestIowa” COVID-19 test sites to operate since mid-April. A key concern for the TestIowa initiative includes communities with meat processing plants.

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

Senior Airman Manuel Zertuche from the 185th Air Refueling Wing in Sioux City was suited up in personal protective equipment and lending a hand as part of a group of 20 Guard members at the Sioux Center test site.

“This is a great opportunity to put our military training to use,” said Zertuche, a full-time student at the University of Iowa who works as a medical technician for the 185th Medical Group. “It is good to help people out, help everyone stay safe and give some peace of mind.”

According to the “TestIowa” website, community members who suspect they have been exposed or have 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.

At the site, Guard members direct motorists to medical staff who administer the test. The process is accomplished simply by having the person roll down their window to submit to a quick nasal swab.

The test site in Sioux Center has Iowa Air Guard Med Techs like Zertuche and Army Guard medics working alongside 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 for processing. The distance from the site to the lab makes Sioux Center the most remote location where TestIowa COVID-19 testing is conducted.

National Guard members plan to staff the test site in Sioux Center through at least the first week of June.

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