On Friday, The Daily Beast did an expose on TestNebraska, a private coronavirus testing initiative championed by actor Ashton Kutcher which received a $27 million contract from the state of Nebraska to perform 540,000 diagnostic tests.
"As of Sunday, TestNebraska had provided 2,358 tests, with 80 positive results, leading to a 3.4 percent positive rate for the tests compared to a 17.9 percent positive rate for those done through the state’s public-health lab and hospitals in the state, according to The Omaha World-Herald," wrote Olivia Messer. "The disparity raised concerns among local officials that the TestNebraska tests might be resulting in false negatives."
"Meanwhile, as of Friday, Nebraska had 9,416 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus and 113 deaths, according to data collected by the state health department," continued the report. "A total of over 57,000 people had been tested out of the state’s population of 1.934 million people. States with comparable populations include West Virginia, where about 70,000 people had been tested, and Idaho, where about 34,000 people had been tested."
Several state senators in Nebraska are now calling on Gov. Pete Ricketts to cancel the contract, including Sen. Megan Hunt, who was denied a test from the program despite having severe coronavirus symptoms and still doesn't know whether she ever had it. The program, she told The Beast, amounts to the "Fyre Fest of coronavirus testing."
"Hunt recalled on Thursday that she was suspicious of the contract from the jump, when it became clear that the companies had little in the way of local connections," said the report. "Then Gov. Ricketts admitted he got the idea for the initiative from Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, who has said she learned about it from actor and philanthropist Ashton Kutcher, a 'good friend' of Qualtrics CEO Ryan Smith, whose business is involved in multimillion-dollar deals in all three states. Kutcher has said he was simply using his admittedly vast connections to offer a creative solution to his home state during a rapidly evolving public-health emergency, after seeing signs of the test initiative’s success in Utah."
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