WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), along with U.S. Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC), is urging the Department of Defense (DOD) to conduct rapid antigen COVID-19 tests of military servicemembers, their families, civilians, and contractors to help detect asymptomatic carriers of the virus and to ensure military readiness.
In a letter to the DOD, the two members of the Senate Armed Services Committee cite the risk of military personnel and families unknowingly contracting and spreading coronavirus, and the impact it could have on national security.
In the letter, the senators write, “As the U.S. military continues to face the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are writing to you to urge the Department of Defense to begin rapid surveillance testing of military personnel, their families, civilian employees, and contractors in order to save lives, preserve hospital capacity, and maintain military readiness.”
They go on to say, “We urge you to immediately make plans to utilize the latest rapid anti-gen testing for coronavirus to detect the asymptomatic carriers of coronavirus…Given the extremely lower cost of an antigen test compared to a PCR test, the Department of Defense already has the resources to conduct multiple antigen-tests over a two-week or four-week period, similar to the U.S. Marine Corps study, to help reduce the chance of a false-negative test result.”
Both the bipartisan Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the bipartisan CARES Act, which Ernst supported, ensured access to free COVID-19 testing without out-of-pocket costs.
In August, following reports that insurance companies are using loopholes to deny or restrict coverage for COVID-19 testing, Ernst supported an effort to ensure Iowans have access to affordable COVID-19 tests, insurance covers antibody tests, and testing information is efficiently shared among health care providers and public health officials.
Earlier this month, Ernst joined a letter urging Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar to clarify the agency’s guidance to ensure that Iowans who need a COVID-19 test can receive one without any out-of-pocket costs, regardless of whether the individual is symptomatic.