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What You Need to Know about TestNebraska

You have probably heard about Test Nebraska, a new web site collecting personal health information in response to the coronavirus epidemic. A lot of disconcerting information is coming out about this web site and the companies behind it. Here are some facts you need to know.

  • The Ricketts administration signed a $27 million no-bid contract with Utah tech companies to establish a web site to collect information about the health of Nebraska residents and to set up testing centers for COVID-19 around the state.
  • The tests that these companies are administering in Utah are raising alarms in the medical community because they are not being administered according to medical standards and are producing dramatically lower positives than reliable tests.
  • The contract with the State of Nebraska stipulates that the tests must be accurate “a majority of the time.” To illustrate the absurdity of this: because fewer than half of Nebraskans have the virus, if the tests were to come back negative for everyone they would be accurate a majority of the time. The tests are not contractually required to be any more accurate than simply telling everyone they don’t have it.
  • As of April 30, the companies have already failed to meet the contractual deadline to establish mobile testing units in hot spots in the state.
  • The two companies behind TestNebraska are Domo and Nomi Health. Domo is a data analytics company that has attracted criticism when the CEO, Josh James, was “using Domo as his personal piggy bank.” The company is expected to be purchased by a larger company such as Google.
  • When TestNebraska first went live, a linked privacy policy explicitly stated that your data would be sold as a business asset if the company were bought out. That privacy policy has since been removed.
  • The CEO of Nomi Health, Mark Newman, does not have healthcare credentials. His primary achievement is having started a company that uses a secret, proprietary algorithm to determine from video recordings whether job applicants should be hired. This company has been described by experts as “pseudoscience” and a privacy rights watchdog group has asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate it.
  • Newman is now also on the board of Meds in Motion, one of the primary suppliers of hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malarial drug that the Trump administration had touted as a treatment for COVID. Early studies now show that the drug is ineffective and may increase the risk of death when used on COVID patients.
  • TestNebraska highlights hydroxychloroquine in its questionnaire, asking users if they have a hydroxychloroquine allergy. The questionnaire does not ask allergy questions about other relevant medications.
  • The contract with the State of Nebraska has an “optional” line item specifying that hydroxychloroquine may be administered to positive patients.
  • The amount paid for TestNebraska would cover 13.5 million hours of hazard pay raises that Ricketts has refused to pay essential state workers.