Ashton Kutcher Helped The State Of Iowa Land A Multi-Million Dollar COVID-19 Testing Contract
Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds recently announced a $26 million contract to increase COVID-19 testing in the state, and it turns out the deal happened thanks to a tip from Ashton Kutcher . The Two And A Half Men alum is one of the biggest investors in the tech industry, and his connections reportedly helped Reynolds make the deal.
According to The Hollywood Reporter , critics of Governor Reynolds say they were “puzzled” by Kutcher’s cameo in Iowa’s pandemic response, especially since she has been slow to reach out to experts in her own state.
Kutcher, who is an Iowa native, reportedly told Reynolds about TestUtah - a “promising” public-private partnership that is testing for the novel coronavirus - when she called him to ask if he would record a “stay at home” PSA for the state.
The actor says that he used his connections to help out his home state, and a friend who is a tech executive happened to be working on TestUtah and offered to set up a meeting with Governor Reynolds. After that meeting, Reynolds’ aides were able to get in touch with Utah Governor Gary Herbert.
“We were able to start that conversation and ramp it up relatively quickly,” Reynolds said.
The $26 million contract that Governor Reynolds signed last week with Nomi Health - a Utah startup that promises a “modern payment system for healthcare” - will provide the state of Iowa with 540,000 COVID-19 testing kits over the next six months.
Nomi Health’s partners include tech firms Qualtrics and Domo, as well as Co-Diagnostics - a Utah-based company that recently received permission from the federal government to sell the novel coronavirus testing kits.
These companies will be taking care of the TestIowa website which allows Iowa residents to voluntarily take an assessment that determines if they qualify for COVID-19 testing, and if necessary, make an appointment.
Kutcher - who is “good friends” with Qualtrics CEO Ryan Smith - said in a statement that they discussed how they could scale testing quickly via new technology instead of waiting for the testing materials that were in short supply.
“They were already proving it in Utah and getting folks tested at a rapid rate. They had also built a very smart specimen tracking system that I felt made it easy for people to do,” Kutcher said.
After realizing that Governor Reynolds had not issued a stay-at-home order and seeing the data that revealed the virus’ rapid spread in the state, Kutcher says that the Governor “jumped at the chance and moved fast to implement” his testing idea.
According to Ashton Kutcher’s publicist, he is not an investor in any of the companies that are involved in the TestIowa deal. The actor did post a promotional video for the new program on social media to encourage Iowans to visit the site. In the first 24 hours, more than 80,000 people completed an assessment.
As of Thursday, 282 Iowa residents infected with coronavirus have been hospitalized and 96 people have died.