COVID impact continues for CIT Transportation as Test Iowa site closes

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CIT Signature Transportation garage doors opened for COVID-19 testing in Ames for the last time on Wednesday, as tests statewide hit their lowest number.

Test Iowa announced on June 16 that the program, which had tested 644,000 people in Iowa at that time, would be phased out by mid-July. Mary Greeley Medical Center spokesperson Steve Sullivan wrote in an email shortly after, the Story County site at 1501 E Lincoln Way also had a June 30 end date.

The closure of the test site is another sign of near-normality with the availability of vaccines, but companies like CIT Signature Trans ships continue to face the looming impacts of the pandemic.

Yet CIT owners John and Kim Grzywacz found the testing program running in their garage to benefit as business remained infrequent.

“We were able to participate in something that no one else will ever participate in,” said John Grzywacz. “I don’t know if there will ever be photos in the Ames Historical Society about it or not, but there will be a notation in there.”

The county’s testing program peaked in November, processing 3,312 tests that month and setting its record of 433 tests in one day on November 23, Sullivan wrote in an email. The site tested 2,220 people in December and 1,554 in January.

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CIT Signature Transportation service owners Kim and John Grzywacz pose with Mary Greeley Medical Center nurses Molly Upadhyay, Quincey Bauman and Klara Ticer on the last day of the Story County COVID-19 testing center at their transportation facility Tuesday June 29, 2021 in Ames, Iowa

At the height of testing, seven other Mary Greeley employees stepped in to help the nine regulars make appointments from November through January.

The numbers declined as more and more Iowans received their COVID-19 vaccine, Sullivan wrote. The site processed 489 tests in April and 258 in May.

At the end of the program, two Mary Greeley employees were managing the phones.

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Mary Greeley has appointed Vice President of Clinical and Support Services Amber Deardorff to lead oversight of COVID-19 efforts. Mary Greeley received an influx of calls requesting testing as the spread of COVID-19 began in the United States as she ran out of supplies and still faced many unknowns, she said.

“It was a very stressful time,” Deardorff said. “We were still very, very, very limited in our options.”

Governor Kim Reynolds launched the Test Iowa program in April and announced the validation of its equipment by May. Deardorff said Mary Greeley jumped on the program, but quickly finding a location proved to be a challenge.

The first Iowa Test tests were conducted on Airport Road at Iowa State Research Park. As the temperatures started to drop, the Grzywacz donated their Ames CIT garage, which lent itself to driving tests.

CIT Signature transportation service owners Kim and John Grzywacz pose in front of the Story County COVID-19 testing center at their transportation facility on Tuesday, June 29, 2021 in Ames, Iowa.

Kim and John Grzywacz said the program is mutually beneficial. Financially, Mary Greeley covered the site’s utilities after the tests moved to the garage.

“It’s very useful when you’re not bringing money,” said John Grzywacz.

Not closing Ames’ office also helped break through the “psychological barrier” that COVID-19 posed for many, he said. The program gave them a reason to go to the office every day, as COVID-19 prevented people from traveling.

As the country appears to be returning to near normal levels, he said the transport sector continues to operate at 30%.

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The availability of vaccines has led to an increase in individual travel, but group travel supports companies like CIT Signature Transportation, Kim Grzywacz said. In some cases, businesses and organizations are avoiding sponsoring a major trip to avoid liability for COVID-19.

Even for those who book a group bus trip to a place like Washington DC, many museums only allow small groups at a time, which can be difficult to maneuver with large groups, she said. .

“COVID has been killed by 1,000 paper cuts,” said John Grzywacz. “They keep cutting and cutting.”

Once the influx of group travel arrives, he predicts that the current shortage of workers will impact their business for at least a year, given the necessary commercial driver’s license.

“Staffing has always been the biggest issue that has slowed our growth,” he said. “We will be back sooner, but it just takes years to build this staff.”

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Many CIT drivers, as well as others in transport, have gone driving for companies that thrived during the pandemic such as Amazon, FedEx and UPS, John Grzywacz said.

“I don’t think there ever was a time when we didn’t know if we could make it happen,” he said. “I think there have been times intermittently… Do we want to get there?”

With all the hurdles, the Grzywacz are moving forward with their business, and John Grzywacz jokes as he did when US Senator Joni Ernst visited in February that when it is time to retire, at least. his sons will be able to afford to buy the business. out of it.

The virus continues to decline across the country, but experts warn of the more easily transferable Delta variant could pose a threat to unvaccinated people in the United States. Those who choose not to be vaccinated and those vaccinated with symptoms may still want to be tested.

As Test Iowa closes, the program plans to offer free in-home testing, and companies like Walgreens and Hy-Vee continue to offer drive-thru testing. A negative test is still required for many travelers, but Des Moines Airport offers rapid tests before boarding.

Deardorff said Mary Greeley visited the state in April to request an extension of their contract which was due to end on April 30, not knowing the site would be ready to close in July.

“I really didn’t expect it to turn that fast,” Deardorff said. “I feel like now is the right time.”

Danielle Gehr is a political and government journalist for the Ames Tribune. She can be contacted by email at [email protected], call (515) 663-6925 or on Twitter at @Dani_Gehr.



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