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Ricketts: Aware of, Working On Panhandle COVID Testing Availability Issues

Ricketts: Aware of, Working On Panhandle COVID Testing Availability Issues
Courtesy NET

Governor Pete Ricketts says his office is aware of and working on the situation in which demand for free COVID testing appointments through TestNebraska has risen sharply in the Scottsbluff area at the same time the rate of new positive cases has expanded rapidly.

During his Coronavirus response update Thursday, Gov. Ricketts was asked by KNEB News about the situation and what the State could do to improve testing availability. “We are working to increase the amount of testing going on in the Panhandle, specifically at Regional West,” said Ricketts. “What we did was put contracts in place, and some of those contracts need to be re-looked at to be able to allow for further expansion, as one of the alternatives.”

Regional West is one of five sites currently providing TestNebraska appointments in the region, offering weekly testing Tuesdays and Fridays from 1 to 4 p.m. While the change represents a reduction in the number of days and hours appointments can be made, Regional West officials say they’ve made operational changes in which the number of appointments available on a weekly basis has remained the same.

RWHS officials say the facility has also been conducting a substantial amount of additional COVID‐19 testing in the county as requested by the State of Nebraska, the Panhandle Public Health District and Scotts Bluff County Health Department, as well as expansion of testing options available through various RWHS departments including the Respiratory Clinic, Urgent Care, and Physicians Clinics.

Ricketts said the State was also working on issues of staffing and couriers used to shuttle test samples to the State Health Lab daily, which also appeared to be contributing to the seeming decline in availability of testing.

Testing days and times at the Sidney Regional Medical Center have recently increased under TestNebraska, from four total hours over two days a week at the end of last month to a current weekly total of seven and a half hours over three days.

EDITOR’S NOTE: In a previous version of this story, KNEB News erroneously included an incorrect statement attributed to RWHS officials regarding the assessment of community demand and periodic adjustment of testing capacity and scheduling. The organization’s official statement is included here, and KNEB News regrets the error.

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