Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds revealed this week that a tip from Ashton Kutcher led to the state’s $26 million, no-bid contract with a Utah startup to increase coronavirus testing. Critics of the governor have been skeptical about the deal, as it does not include any Iowa-based companies and was apparently reached without guidance from Iowa health experts, the Associated Press reports. Reynolds insisted at a press conference that the deal does have “an Iowa touch” since Kutcher was raised in the state. The governor said he reached out to Kutcher about recording a public service announcement encouraging residents to stay home, at which point the actor asked if he’d heard about a public-private partnership called TestUtah.
Reynolds spoke to a friend of Kutcher’s who works on TestUtah, which ultimately led to the contract with Nomi Health, a startup that’s “developing a modern payment system for healthcare.” As part of the deal, Nomi Health—which has partnered up with Utah-based Co-Diagnostics and tech firms Qualtrics and Domo—will give 540,000 COVID-19 tests to Iowa over six months. “Mr. Kutcher seems like a great guy but not sure what public health expertise he brings for advising our pandemic response,” said Democratic Sen. Joe Bolkcom.