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Demand for tests through Test Nebraska quadruples since beginning of program

Published: Nov. 20, 2020 at 6:18 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Twenty four hours a day, seven days a week lab technicians at CHI Health St. Elizabeth are processing Test Nebraska Tests.

“Tests come in coolers in batches, we may get 1,000 of them at a time,” CHI Health St. Elizabeth president Derek Vance said.

Those tests come from more than 50 Test Nebraska locations across the state which are testing more and more people every day.

10/11 NOW requested testing data from the Department of Health and Human Services and learned the demand for tests has more than quadrupled since Test Nebraska started in May.

They’ve gone from performing 3,000 to 6,000 tests a week to doing more than 26,000 last week.

This graph shows how many tests performed by Test Nebraska per week since the program began.
This graph shows how many tests performed by Test Nebraska per week since the program began.(KOLN)

DHHS Incident Commander Angela Ling said that increase is likely due to the increase in community spread.

“It’s happening, it’s real,” Ling said. “You get tested when you’ve had a close contact, or have had symptoms it can help you be safer. I think the community is realizing how smart it is to get tested.”

In total, Test Nebraska has done more than 418,000 tests, that’s 34% of the more than 1.2 million tests performed across the state.

“Its been a saving grace for us to be able to offer testing for free and take care of everyone,” Ling said.

The lab has tripled its staff and now work around the clock to process the tests.

Vance said with the increasing number of tests, the attention to accuracy remains high. They run the tests in sets of 48 and check each one for inconsistencies.

“Say we’re running at about a 20% positivity rate and we get a batch that comes back at 45% or 50% that’s an indication to rerun that entire batch from the beginning,” Vance said.

The average turnaround time is 2.3 days, less than the 72 hours Test Nebraska aims for.

“There’s been a few instances where that’s taken longer because equipment has gone down but by and large those results are out within 24 to 48 hours and that’s what gives people peace of mind that they’re okay or that they need to quarantine and make sure they’re not spreading this around to friends and neighbors,” Vance said.

Both Ling and Vance expect the demand for tests to continue to rise over the coming weeks, but add that Test Nebraska is ready.

Vance said they’re adding new lab technicians all the time and Ling said hours and capacity at Omaha and Lincoln Test Nebraska sites have been expanded.

To get tested, go to testnebraska.com.

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