CORONAVIRUS

Ashton Kutcher tipped Iowa off to coronavirus testing contractor

State later signed a $26 million deal to ramp up testing

Ashton Kutcher speaks at an awards ceremony at the Robert D. and Billie Ray Center at Drake University in Des Moines on
Ashton Kutcher speaks at an awards ceremony at the Robert D. and Billie Ray Center at Drake University in Des Moines on Saturday, April 8, 2017. Kutcher received the Robert D. Ray Pillar of Character Award for his humanitarian work with the Native Fund, which provides financial support for Iowans in need. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

Iowa’s governor said Thursday that the state’s $26 million contract with Utah companies to increase coronavirus testing was developed after she got unsolicited advice from actor Ashton Kutcher.

Gov. Kim Reynolds said that she recently called Kutcher, an Iowa native known for starring in movies and television shows, to ask whether he would record a public service announcement related to the pandemic.

She said Kutcher asked whether she was familiar with a Utah program launched this month to increase testing that looked promising. Kutcher had a friend involved in one of the companies participating, and offered to connect him with the governor.

Reynolds said that she spoke with Kutcher’s connection, and her aides followed up with Utah government officials. “We were able to start that conversation and ramp it up relatively quickly,” she said.

Last week, Iowa signed a $26 million no-bid contract with Nomi Health, a Utah startup, to purchase 540,000 coronavirus tests. Nomi Health’s partners include tech and health companies Qualtrics, Domo and Co-Diagnostics Inc.

Reynolds launched TestIowa on Tuesday, which aims to eventually test 3,000 more residents per day, roughly tripling the state’s capacity.

The governor has faced questions about why she didn’t consider Iowa-based institutions or companies for the partnership.

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