Commission approves renewal of maintenance on COVID-19 testing machine

Updated: Dec 30, 2021

MOUND CITY – On Monday, Nov.29, over two months after the first request from the health department to purchase the yearly maintenance agreement on the machine that tests for COVID, influenza, Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) and strep, the Linn County Commissioners voted to renew the maintenance agreement.

Linn County Health Director Missy Lancaster had asked about the $4,999 maintenance agreement at last week’s meeting because it was due on Nov. 24, but the commissioners asked her to come back this week with the figures of how many tests had been done with the machine. Previous health director Tisha Coleman had first submitted the bill for its renewal on Sept. 13 before she left the department.

Lancaster told commissioner that 1,500 test strips had been purchased initially from Cepheid, the company that makes the device, and that 533 tests had been done, leaving nearly 1,000 tests left. Last week and this week, she explained to them that the maintenance agreement covered cassettes, and if one of those went out on the machine the cost would be about $10,000.

The testing machine was purchased with grant money during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic for $29,950. The tests are ready in an hour and the health department is the only place in the county you can get same day results. Grant money will also cover the maintenance renewal cost.

Commissioner Jim Johnson was concerned that patients who are positive are then referred to doctors to get checked and get prescriptions. Lancaster said that health department policy was always to recommend that people see their primary care provider if they test positive.

Johnson also asked if they could continue to use it without the maintenance contract. Lancaster said yes, but it is recommended that it is serviced yearly. She said that they do quality control tests, monthly or when there is a change in the lot number. She said you want to make sure that your machine that is testing the public is working correctly and you are getting accurate results.

Commission Chair Rick James said you have a $30,000 machine and you just hope it still works.

Linn County Counselor Gary Thompson said he thought the big benefit of the machine is when it shows negative.

Lancaster agreed. She said a lot of people have to have a negative test before they can go back to work and this machine does that quickly.

James said there were three reasons he saw that the commission should approve the maintenance agreement.

One was that they still had nearly 1,000 test kits left, two was the benefit to the school districts for quick results. He said that since the county already bought it, he believed it would continue to be beneficial for the county for another year.

Johnson also asked if the commission could revisit the issue before the health department buys another 1,500 strips.

Lancaster reported that the health department had received several new grants.

Two were for outreach, supplies, testing, and getting out to work in the community. One of them was $63,000 and the other was for $110,000.

Another grant for $4,000, was written by health department employee Amanda Snyder for safe sleep. It will help the department provide information on safe cribs and smoke detectors.

Lancaster said that she could not find a dress code policy for the health department and she had written one and wanted to know if it needed to be approved.

James told her to let Thompson look it over.

Linn County Clerk David Lamb said that the employee handbook allows department heads to set dress codes without the commission’s approval.

Thompson said that he had sent a copy of an initial proposal for an advisory board for the health department to Lancaster. Lancaster said she would look it over.

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