Ricketts Announces Deal With Private Companies From Utah to Expand Testing Capacity

April 21, 2020, 6:49 p.m. ·

(Joe McMullen, NET Nebraska)

Gov. Pete Ricketts announced a new partnership Tuesday with several out-of-state companies to increase COVID-19 testing across the state.

The new partnership, led by Utah-based Domo, will begin in ten days with an estimated 500 tests the first day.

Eventually it will increase Nebraska’s capacity by 3,000 tests a day — officials estimate reaching that capacity within five weeks.

The "Test Nebraska" initiative will include a new lab in Nebraska and access to more than 500,000 total COVID-19 tests. Governor Pete Ricketts says it’s an important step.

"Right now we've quarantined the entire state," Ricketts said. "What we want to shift to over time is really focusing on those people who are directly impacted: hose people who test positive and the people they have had contact with."

Nebraskans are asked to fill out an online assessment that includes questions about age, height, weight, type of employment, housing situation, age ranges of people in the household and symptoms.

The results of the assessment will guide state officials to determine where testing centers should be set up. The state will be responsible for staffing the testing sites, and will use the National Guard for at least the first few sites.

The tests will be free for Nebraskans; when asked at Tuesday's press conference how much the partnership is costing the state, Gov. Ricketts said he didn't know and would follow-up with the information later.

Utah has been using the "assess, test and track" system with the same private companies for a couple of weeks. Iowa announced its partnership with the group on Tuesday.