An unknown number of Test Iowa test kits cannot be processed because they were damaged, Barbara Rodriguez of the Des Moines Register reported on Thursday. According to a spokesperson for Gov. Kim Reynolds, only a “very small percentage” of test kits were affected.
“A very small percentage of individuals are going to receive a direct notice that their test sample is potentially damaged,” Pat Garrett, communications director for the governor, said in a statement. “We will notify these individuals and they will be offered the opportunity to retest at their convenience at any site that’s open at any time. These situations are not unique to Test Iowa, and it’s common among all testing for COVID19.”
“Garrett did not explain what led some samples to be potentially damaged, but he described it as common in coronavirus testing,” Rodriguez reported.
The test kits used at Test Iowa sites are provided by Nomi Health, a Utah-based tech company Gov. Reynolds awarded a $26 million no-bid contract to administer the testing program. Reynolds signed that contract shortly after she was made aware of the Nomi-run Test Utah during a phone call with actor Ashton Kutcher. Kutcher is a friend of the CEO of one of Nomi’s subcontractors for the testing programs, and according to the governor, the Cedar Rapids-born actor told her Test Utah “looked very promising.”
Questions have been raised in Utah about the efficacy of the test kits Nomi is using.
The kits are manufactured by Co-Diagnostics, a small company located in Salt Lake City, and the Salt Lake Tribune reported they have a “higher limit detection” than tests produced by larger companies, meaning more of the virus must be present in a sample before the test will detect it.
“An analysis by the life sciences publication BioCentury showed that at least 16 of 22 comparable tests authorized by the FDA report a lower limit of detection, or greater sensitivity, than Co-Diagnostic’s tests,” the Tribune said.
The limit of detection in the Co-Diagnostic tests is also higher than what the CDC recommends.
The State Hygienic Laboratory at the University of Iowa is in the process of determining the reliability of the Test Iowa kits.
Nomi is not providing personnel to conduct the tests at the Test Iowa sites or transport the kits to the State Hygienic Laboratory. The tests are processed on equipment provided by Nomi, but state employees are processing the tests and analyzing the results.
Test Iowa currently has four testing sites around the state. The first, in Des Moines, opened on April 25. Sites in Waterloo and Sioux City followed. On Thursday, Test Iowa opened a site in Cedar Rapids.
Following the report of the damaged tests, former Gov. Chet Culver sent Reynolds a letter asking her to have “Auditor of State Rob Sand… conduct an immediate and comprehensive performance audit of Nomi Health’s services, to assure that the company is performing in a manner that complies with the express provisions of its contract with Iowa, with all applicable federal and state laws, and with best pandemic practices.”
Culver, a Democrat who served as governor from 2007 to 2011 noted Nomi Health “had little prior, proven track record in the delivery of public health services before its Iowa contract.” Prior to Test Utah, Nomi was probably best known for providing record management and payment systems for health care companies.
“If your Administration expects employees to report to work at meat processing plants and other places that are viewed by many as health-risky locations, then those workers simply must have access to the very best coronavirus testing protocols possible,” Culver told Reynolds in his letter.
“Our citizens deserve the peace of mind that an effective delivery of governmental services, aimed to diminish the harms of COVID-19, should be expected to provide,” the former governor said.