Gov. Pete Ricketts said Wednesday that the state is improving its coronavirus testing procedures, learning along the way as it expands testing and begins to build the follow-up procedures of contact tracing that will be required to corral the virus.
In moving ahead quickly with Test Nebraska, the governor said, he decided it was "better to get this out sooner even if we have to go back and fix some things."
The state has identified "some things we can improve upon," the governor said during his daily coronavirus news briefing.
Some state senators have criticized the Test Nebraska initiative, which involves a $27 million contract with three Utah companies to administer coronavirus testing.
A new call center will more efficiently handle calls to Test Nebraska at 402-207-9377, Ricketts announced.
Early results from Test Nebraska show a considerably lower rate of coronavirus infection than previous public health lab testing, but that reflects in part "who you're testing," Ricketts said.
Many of the earlier tests were conducted in communities with meat-processing plants where spread of the virus already had occurred, he noted.
Test Nebraska was operating at sites in Lincoln and Omaha on Wednesday and will be in Norfolk on Thursday and in Lexington on Friday, Ricketts said.
Answering out-of-state critics who have questioned his coronavirus response policy, Ricketts said "we do what's right for Nebraska" and, in doing so, the state has flattened the curve of infection growth and protected the ability of its health care system to respond to the challenge.
"You can slow it down," he said, "and we've done that."
Ricketts said the state will be managing the virus with a variety of social restrictions "at least until the end of the year, if not into next year."
Fielding a number of questions about when restrictions will be raised or eased on high school rodeos, adult sports and other activities, the governor said those actions will come "a step at a time."
The latest scorecard for availability of vital hospital services in Nebraska for coronavirus patients is 46% available beds, 40% available intensive care unit beds and 78% available ventilators.
Seventy-three of the first 103 coronavirus deaths in Nebraska have been residents of long-term care facilities.
Test Nebraska has a new laboratory in operation at CHI St. Elizabeth, Ricketts noted, and its data is being integrated into the state's coronavirus data stream now.
First lady Susanne Shore joined the briefing to report on activities undertaken by Nebraska Impact, a statewide effort she's spearheading to help Nebraskans affected by the pandemic through private donations of money and citizen assistance.
"I know this is difficult for all of us," she said, "and I appreciate everyone's strength."
Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or email@example.com.
On Twitter @LJSdon
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