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Get the latest news about the novel coronavirus from Iowa Public Radio and NPR News.

Iowa Governor Says Ashton Kutcher Linked Her To Tech Companies For COVID-19 Testing Partnership

ashton kutcher
Chris Pizzello
/
Invision/AP File
In this Jan. 29, 2017 file photo, actor and entrepreneur Ashton Kutcher appears at the 23rd annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles.

Gov. Kim Reynolds said Thursday that actor and Iowa native Ashton Kutcher first connected her with the companies the state is paying $26 million in a no-bid contract to expand coronavirus testing through the Test Iowa initiative.

On Tuesday, Reynolds announced the state contracted with Nomi Health, with involvement from Domo and Qualtrics, to set up an online assessment and drive-thru test sites with the goal of testing 3,000 additional Iowans each day.

Iowa Public Radio asked Reynolds why she pursued the partnership with the private companies. She said Kutcher told her about their coronavirus testing efforts in Utah during a recent phone call.

“He asked if I was familiar with what was happening with Test Utah and some of how it looked very promising, and it looked like other states should potentially take a look at that,” Reynolds said. “He knew one of the individuals that had been working on that was a friend of his, or just a colleague and knew him, and so he said, ‘If you’d like, I’d be happy to connect the two of you.’”

Reynolds said her team also discussed Test Utah with the Utah governor’s staff.

Kutcher is also a tech investor, and according to an online database of investments, he is not personally invested in Nomi Health, Domo or Qualtrics. His investment groups Sound Ventures and A-Grade Investments do not list those companies either. It’s not clear if this database includes all of Kutcher’s investments.

A Utah news outlet reported earlier this year that Kutcher was spotted at a Utah Jazz basketball game sitting next to Ryan Smith, the CEO of Qualtrics.

Kutcher has also participated in the Qualtrics X4 Summit, and Utah station KUTV reported Qualtrics donated $25,000 to Kutcher’s anti-human trafficking nonprofit called Thorn.

He has tweeted in support of Test Utah and promoted the Test Iowa online assessment on social media.

So far, just one Test Iowa testing site in downtown Des Moines is scheduled to open Saturday, and few Iowans who qualified for a test were able to get an appointment to get tested.

Reynolds said this weekend would be a “soft launch” of the drive-thru testing. She did not say where the other sites will be. She said the data gathered as Iowans complete online assessments will help inform where the test sites should be.

Black Hawk County officials said Thursday they are expecting a Test Iowa drive-thru site to be set up in Waterloo.

Linn County officials also held a press conference Thursday and said they were getting a lot of questions about Test Iowa.

“Linn County Public Health was not involved in the planning or implementation of Test Iowa, and we learned about the new testing option during [the] governor’s press conference,” said Heather Meador with the Linn County Public Health Department.

She said Linn County residents and others took the online assessment, qualified for a test, and then could not schedule a test because the sites haven’t opened.

“Our message continues to be to encourage all Iowans to not wait for Test Iowa if they are experiencing symptoms of illness,” Meador said. “Please contact your health care provider.”

Reynolds said Iowans who qualify for a test but can’t schedule one immediately will eventually get an email when time slots are available.