Is TestUtah Getting The Right Results?
Since it launched in April, questions have dogged TestUtah, a statewide testing initiative led by a group of Utah tech companies.
In a recent New Yorker article, reporter Robert Baird examines the unique context in which the initiative emerged, as tech executives jumped at an opportunity to disrupt an industry and help meet the public’s critical need for COVID-19 testing. But critics say TestUtah’s results don’t square up with those from other labs in the state, and that its test may be missing people sick with the coronavirus. Baird and Salt Lake Tribune investigative reporter Erin Alberty join us Friday at 11 a.m. to talk about the challenges facing TestUtah.
Robert Baird’s New Yorker article is “How Utah’s Tech Industry Tried to Disrupt Coronavirus Testing.”
In producing the show, the RadioWest production team reached out to a number of representatives behind the TestUtah initiative. Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox, who leads the state's coronavirus taskforce, was unavailable to join us. The Utah Department of Public Health declined to join us. They provided the following statement:
TestUtah was envisioned and implemented early in our state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic as a means of increasing access to testing for Utah residents. The public-private partnership was initiated at a time when testing was scarce not only in Utah, but across the nation. To date, the initiative has resulted in more than 30,000 Utahns being tested. Ensuring the accuracy of test results from all testing locations is critical to our response. We will continue to explore any process improvements that will enhance the accuracy of COVID-19 testing in Utah
Mark Newman, the CEO and a co-founder of Nomi Health, one of the major drivers behind TestUtah, was scheduled to join us, but he eventually withdrew. A public relationsspokesperson for Nomi sent us the following statement, attributed to Mr. Newman:
With COVID cases spiking across our communities, we're focused on one thing: working with the State to increase access to free testing for anyone who qualifies. We'd be more than happy to join KUER to talk about why community testing is so important to getting Utah back on its feet, and how our programs streamline the testing process for patients, but now is not the time to rehash old articles. This is a public health crisis and nothing is more important than a patient's health. That's why we spent more than two weeks working with the New Yorker to provide information and answer their questions about the partners we work with and tests we provide. The reality is: our labs, our tests, our standards and everything else we do all pass the rigorous standards set by the FDA, federal regulators and the states in which we work. Listeners need to understand that health experts and the FDA are all confident in Co-Diagnostics tests, and there have now been more than four third-party validations of them. If the FDA were not, the test would not be used. Regulators have reviewed the labs we work with and kept them open. The opinions of one state employee are simply not shared by State leadership or Utahns. Our contract has been extended in Utah, and we’re increasing our testing capacity every day. To imply anything else is misleading to the public and dangerous. The State leans on TestUtah as a reliable and valued testing partner, and we're busy answering the State's calls to test high-risk regions and populations across Utah. What stands are the facts: TestUtah tests are FDA-authorized, TestUtah patient data is 100% HIPAA-protected, and the TestUtah lab has been validated. We look forward to continuing to test more Utahns every day and hope we can join in the future to discuss the role that efficient, community-based testing plays in the fight against COVID here in our state.
- Robyn Atkinson-Dunn, former director of the Utah Public Health Laboratory
- Robert Baird, freelance writer and editor.
- Erin Alberty, reporter for The Salt Lake Tribune. She and her colleagues Bethany Rodgers and Nate Carlisle have been covering TestUtah for the newspaper.