That meant that the only real-time data on the virus across the state that doctors like Dr. David Brett-Major, an infectious disease specialist, had during July and August was watching sick people stream into the emergency department of the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha.
“If the tests are only happening when the cases are more severe, then you’re not getting a broad look,” he said in a recent interview.
Susan Bockrath, the executive director of the Nebraska Association of Local Health Directors, said her group brought up the missing dashboard repeatedly with state officials, pointing out it was also a necessary tool in the campaign against pandemic misinformation.
The dashboard was removed just as Stephanie Summers, board of education president in David City, was trying to determine the best policy for students and families in her rural community one hour west of Omaha. Mr. Ricketts has told Nebraskans to get vaccinated, but declined to require masks, despite pleas from some public health officials.
“The state cannot insist on an individual’s freedom to choose to wear, or not wear, a mask, or whether or not to get vaccinated, and then also withhold the data needed for citizens to make informed decisions,” she said, adding that she fully agreed with state leaders in emphasizing those individual freedoms.
While the dashboard has mostly been restored, some doctors doubt the current testing system is capturing the reality on the ground. Two dozen doctors sent a letter in early September to Mr. Ricketts asking for the return of Test Nebraska.