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State senators speak out about issues with TestNebraska

Posted at 10:16 PM, May 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-12 15:26:54-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) - — Several state senators want to see coronavirus testing from local health experts.

They called on Governor Pete Ricketts to end the state's contract with TestNebraska, but he said he would not.

More than 2,300 COVID-19 test results have come back since TestNebraska launched last week.

But four state senators, including senators Carol Blood and Megan Hunt, want the governor to cancel the contract with TestNebraska.

"Why did we have to outsource the solution through a $27 million, no-bid contract to a company in Utah?" Senator Megan Hunt said.

Senator Carol Blood tells 3 News Now that money should have stayed in Nebraska.

"I don't understand why we invest so much money and energy into our health facilities here in Nebraska but when push comes to shove and we're in a crisis we go to another state," Senator Blood said.

Governor RIcketts addressed the senators concerns at his daily press conference Monday afternoon.

"This is new for all of us," Ricketts said. "So you're not going to find a lot of companies that have tons of experience in testing in a pandemic experience since this is the first one we've had in a hundred years so on the face of it the senators statement is ludicrous."

"I think it's paramount that Nebraskans understand that none of the senators involved in this request are against testing," Blood said. "We are big supporters of testing, our issue is about who is doing the testing."

Senator Hunt also has concerns about the accuracy of Test Nebraska.

"Nebraska has led in pandemics before" Hunt said. "In Ebola, in SARS, the federal government looked to the University of Nebraska Medical Center for solutions, but this time we are not leaders in this pandemic and it's a failure of imagination and a failure of strategy."

"Neither the public health lab nor UNMC have the space to be able to do it," Ricketts said. "They couldn't do it in the short frame that we were talking about nor do they have the machines to be able to do it, nor do they have the test kits to be able to do it in the time frame that we were talking about."

The senators will still keep asking questions about this program.

"I am concerned that we got a bad deal and I'm concerned that we got that bad deal because we rushed so we need to be very careful as public servants and we need to very careful as citizens as we're in this really unknown territory," Hunt said.

The senators say privacy is also an issue.

Governor Ricketts says the tests are safe, and the data isn't sold to anyone.

Nomi Health, the company behind TestNebraska, issued the following statement on Tuesday:

“From day one, we have worked tirelessly with Governor Ricketts to bring robust, effective testing to the people of Nebraska, and it's disappointing to see these four Senators now trying to play politics with peoples’ lives during this crisis.
To date, we have delivered over 200,000 FDA-approved tests ahead of schedule, launched TestNebraska with leading software companies, set up and validated an automated CLIA certified lab at CHI Health St. Elizabeth, and helped mobilize testing sites across the State. TestNebraska is an incredible collaboration between this state’s public and private sectors, including the Nebraska's Department of Health, the Nebraska National Guard, CHI Health and many others.

The Senators are welcome to join the more than 120,000 Nebraskans who have already been assessed on www.testnebraska.com [testnebraska.com] if they'd like to experience it for themselves. We look forward to continuing our work with Governor Ricketts and invite these Senators to join our efforts in getting Nebraskans back on their feet.”