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Ricketts says he'd offer aid from TestNebraska to make Husker football happen this fall

Ricketts says he'd offer aid from TestNebraska to make Husker football happen this fall

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LINCOLN — Gov. Pete Ricketts said he’s excited to see Husker football kickoff this fall like everyone else, and would offer up his COVID-19 testing program if it would help that happen.

At a press conference Friday, Ricketts touted the speedy turnaround time for tests performed recently by TestNebraska, the coronavirus testing program the governor set up with a Utah group via a $27 million, no-bid contract in April.

Last week, TestNebraska was able to turn around test results in 31 hours, he said. That compares to 38 hours for Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha and 51 hours for the state’s Public Health Lab. Two private labs, Quest and LabCorp, had turnaround times of 113 hours and 126 hours, respectively.

The governor was asked to respond to the Big 10 Conference’s announcement that it wouldn’t be playing nonconference football games this fall.

“I’m just looking forward to seeing how we can play football here this fall,” he said. “It’s probably not going to look like it did last year. But I’m excited to see some football here.”

Later in the news conference, Ricketts said that he would be willing to offer the assistance of TestNebraska if it was needed to help clear athletic teams to play.

“We’re certainly taking a look at that to see how we might structure it,” the governor said.

Conversations so far with universities and colleges across the state, Ricketts said, have focused more broadly than athletics, asking them what their needs are and whether state help is needed.

TestNebraska initially was turning tests around in about 48 hours. As of Friday, 214,000 Nebraskans have signed up for testing at the mobile sites offered by the state program, which has struggled to meet its stated goal of providing 3,000 COVID-19 tests per day.

Taylor Gage, the governor’s spokesman, said Friday that the program was able to meet its goal twice in the past week, swabbing 3,617 people on Tuesday and 3,201 people on Wednesday. The lab has the capacity to process 3,600 tests a day, Gage said.

As of Thursday, TestNebraska had provided 72,632 tests across the state, which is about 1,800 a day.

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