Ricketts says TestNebraska COVID-19 tests will be verified

Ricketts said state officials will work to ensure that the tests administered through the TestNebraska program are accurate to avoid giving a false negative result to people who have coronavirus symptoms.
Ricketts

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts expressed confidence Thursday in the new coronavirus tests that the state purchased through a no-bid contract with a small Utah startup firm after a local newspaper raised questions about the accuracy of the company’s results.

Ricketts said state officials will work to ensure that the tests administered through the TestNebraska program are accurate to avoid giving a false negative result to people who have coronavirus symptoms.

“We will be setting it up and we will be verifying it to make sure it’s calibrated appropriately and testing our samples to make sure we’re getting it right,” Ricketts said at his weekday coronavirus news conference. “But I want to emphasize that this is not some brand new technology.”

His comments came in response to questions rising from a Salt Lake Tribune story. The newspaper reported that 2% of symptomatic patients in a Utah program run by the same company tested positive for the coronavirus, compared to 5% who tested positive at other Utah sites.

Ricketts announced last week that Nebraska would pay about $27 million to Nomi Health, a Salt Lake City startup, for 540,000 coronavirus tests in hopes of expanding the state’s ability to test residents.

The announcement came the same day that Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds announced a similar agreement with the same company.

Ricketts has said the company came up in a conversation with Reynolds, who later told reporters that she was acting on a tip from Iowa-born actor Ashton Kutcher. Ricketts and Reynolds said they also consulted with Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, a fellow Republican who also agreed to work with Nomi Health.

Ricketts said the company’s tests will be managed and analyzed by Nebraska experts. He declined to specify, saying he planned to make a formal announcement later.

Nebraska has seen a jump in COVID-19 deaths following technical difficulties with the state’s coronavirus tracking portal in recent days, state health officials said late Wednesday.

Nebraska saw 13 new deaths from the virus on Wednesday, bringing the state total to 68, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services reported. Eight of the deaths were in hard-hit Hall County, is home to Grand Island and continues to lead the state in COVID-19 cases with nearly 1,000.

The jump is deaths came on the same day that Gov. Pete Ricketts unveiled plans to ease coronavirus restrictions in Lincoln and other parts of Nebraska. It also came as the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services reported that a fourth state prisons staffer — this one at the Nebraska State Penitentiary in Lincoln — had tested positive for the virus.

State officials said that while its latest number of coronavirus deaths is accurate, the reported number of confirmed cases statewide continues to lag actual counts due to the technical problems.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness and death.

Categories: Coronavirus, Nebraska News, News