An Iowa veteran touches the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall during an Honor Flight trip to Washington, D.C. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

While some Americans think of Memorial Day as the unofficial start of summer, the holiday serves as a day of remembrance for all who have died serving in the American armed forces.

Originally called Decoration Day, the solemn occasion began after the Civil War to honor Union and Confederate soldiers who had died.

This entire weekend, flags at public buildings in Iowa have been lowered to half-staff; from Saturday, May 23, to Sunday, May 24, to honor the victims of coronavirus, and on Monday, May 25, in honor of deceased service members on Memorial Day.

Across the United States in veterans care centers and elsewhere, hundreds of veterans have been dying of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus, since the first veteran died March 14 in Oregon.

The Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown reported 32 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Sunday, May 24, with only half of those recovered.

COVID-19 is disproportionately taking the lives of nursing home residents in Iowa. As of Sunday, 240 of Iowa’s 456 deaths have been residents of long-term care centers, with 36 outbreaks in nursing homes statewide.

On May 1, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds began relaxing restrictions on businesses that had been implemented to curb the spread of the highly transmissible virus. Now, churches, movie theaters, restaurants and more have been allowed to reopen, even as experts warn of increasing cases and deaths. On Thursday, May 28, bars throughout Iowa will be allowed to reopen.

Reynolds has repeatedly pointed to increased testing and contact tracing among factors in her decision to allow businesses to reopen, but if the results of the Test Iowa initiative in Linn County are any indication, the state is falling short on both fronts.

Reynolds has touted Test Iowa — signed with a Utah-based partnership through a $26 million, no-bid contract — even as questions have been raised about the numbers and accuracy of the tests.

Last week, Tricia Kitzmann, Community Health Manager for Linn County Public Health, sent a letter to the state, noting that Linn County had only received 20 of 823 Test Iowa results, with 16 of those results categorized as “inconclusive.”

The delay in receiving test results, as well as the high number of  “inconclusive” results, put the county at a disadvantage for follow-up and contact tracing, Kitzmann said.

More: See the full letter from Linn County Public Health

In the meantime, the state’s new method of updating coronavirus statistics has muddled the daily counts, but Iowa appears to have set record-high numbers of daily deaths in the past few days.

In a 12-hour period alone, from 10:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. May 22, the state recorded 23 deaths, increasing from 418 to 441.

Iowa’s coronavirus “dashboard” was taken down for scheduled maintenance this weekend, during which time the state sent out news releases with updated numbers.

The May 23 release indicated Iowa had been notified of 419 additional positive cases for a total of 16,767 confirmed COVID-19 cases.

An additional 26 COVID-19 deaths were reported that day, marking the highest single-day total since the pandemic began.

On May 24, the state reported an additional 263 positive cases for a total of 17,213 confirmed cases, and five more deaths.

Neither press release mentioned the total number of Iowans who have died so far of COVID-19, now 456.

Every person who has died of COVID-19 has a name. Read about one family’s heartbreak after COVID-19 took their sister’s life