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Editorial: TestNebraska must deliver quicker test results, given the ongoing need

Editorial: TestNebraska must deliver quicker test results, given the ongoing need

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A worker uses a swab to test someone for coronavirus at a drive through testing site in Lot D of the CHI Health Center on May 4. This was part of the TestNebraska initiative launched by Gov. Pete Ricketts.

Coronavirus testing this year has provided key lessons. One is that getting test results back promptly brings big benefits. It helps individuals with the virus isolate more quickly at home. Those who have come into close contact with them can quarantine, watch for symptoms and decide whether to get tested themselves.

Nebraska has made progress on this score. A good number of the testing programs have shortened their response times to less than two days. But the state’s public-private testing initiative, TestNebraska, must do more to meet this vital need, both to better serve the public and to demonstrate it’s worth its $27 million contract with the state.

It’s good that TestNebraska has shortened its reporting times of late. Two weeks ago it was averaging a turnaround of 55.5 hours. Last week the turnaround was 39.9 hours, according to the Governor’s Office.

TestNebraska has purchased new equipment and hired more full-time staff recently as the lab has grown, the Governor’s Office reports. The service has created a personnel pool to help when team members are unable to show up or become sick, better ensuring adequate staff coverage of lab work.

Many U.S. states as well as foreign countries have seen COVID-19 surges of late. Nebraska’s cases are rising again. Much remains to be learned about the illness. Prompt test results are crucial to help Nebraska meet this continuing public health crisis.

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