OTTUMWA — After months of trying to put the pieces together, an indoor Test Iowa clinic in Wapello County will finally be up and running this month.
The county Board of Supervisors met in special session Thursday to discuss the last piece of the puzzle — staffing — that was holding back the project from getting off the ground. The supervisors eventually approved a contract for $127,228.56 to fund Test Iowa for 13 weeks.
Once Emergency Management Agency Coordinator Tim Richmond gets the clinic registered through the governor's office, it will open below The Vine Coffeehouse at the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and Jefferson Street.
The county decided to go with nurses from two different staffing agencies — a nurse from South Dakota and another from Montezuma, at a rate of $71 and $75 an hour, respectively. They will be paid through the end of the year by CARES Act money the county has received, while the state will provide equipment necessary for the site, in addition to what was already on hand.
"It's really good that we've got something together now," said board chair Brian Morgan. "We felt like this was the best use of our CARES money that the federal government has allotted us. Hopefully this helps us get back to a sense of normalcy."
"You have to grab the nurses when you can get them," Richmond said. "They were already in short supply before COVID-19, but COVID made it even tougher."
The nurses, Morgan said, will split their day between contact tracing (in the morning) and testing (evening). The county public health department has spent plenty of time performing contact tracing, and this will help alleviate some of that pressure.
Though details are still being worked out and will be released in the coming days, Richmond said the clinic will be open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and he's still hoping for a 2-8 p.m. window. Patients will have to register to be tested through the state's online registration system.
"It's the same thing as what we did with the tent site in the summer, and that site was a dry run to teach us how to do an indoor site," Richmond said. "We had more resources than we needed. It took us a few weeks, but our elected officials are making a significant investment. They kept asking us what we needed.
"This is huge for a lot of folks, but especially our clinics and hospitals. They really needed this," Richmond said. "A lot of folks can't afford to go to Burlington or Des Moines for a test, and now we've offered a solution."