Updated: Dec 30, 2021
MOUND CITY – The Linn County Commissioners on Monday, Nov. 22, indicated that they might want to pass a resolution to halt what they believed to be excessive COVID-19 testing for students in the three school districts in the county. They also discussed counties that were no longer requiring students to quarantine.
While County Counselor Gary Thompson pointed out that the districts controlled their own testing and quarantine policies in absence of a countywide mandate, the discussion about the number of tests centered on numbers that were not accurate.
All three districts continue to use a modified quarantine program, called test to stay, that has been in effect since early September. Students who have been in close contact with a student that has tested positive for COVID-19 can choose to quarantine out of school, usually for 10 days, or submit to once-a-week COVID-19 testing along with the mandatory wearing of a mask.
Superintendents from all three districts on Monday said that the current number of active cases, quarantines and modified quarantines were at or close to zero.
Commissioner Jim Johnson asked Linn County Health Department Director Missy Lancaster if every student was being tested twice a week. She said that was her understanding, but she added that the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) was looking at recommending testing three times a week.
She that in a discussion with the area KDHE representative, they both decided that testing three times a week was too much, but that twice a week was acceptable.
Meanwhile in a separate interview, Rex Bollinger, superintendent for Prairie View USD 362, said that the Kansas State High School Activities Association (KSHSAA) was recommending that athletes involved in winter sports be tested twice weekly. He said he believed that was too frequent.
In another interview, Shawn Thomas, superintendent for Jayhawk USD 346, agreed that the KSHSAA policy was too much. Thomas said that his district was preparing to reevaluate the district’s policies in light of the reduced threat in the schools.
In the commission session on Monday, commission Chair Rick James said he learned that several counties were doing away with the mandatory quarantine for those who had contact with a person who tested positive for COVID-19.
But Lancaster said she opposed dropping the quarantine for now, at least not yet.
In other business, the commission approved the hiring of Danielle Casey, a registered nurse, to be the public health nurse for the county health department. Her salary was set at $25.99 per hour.
Lancaster also reminded the commission that the renewal of a maintenance agreement on a testing machine was due on Nov. 24. She said the cost to renew the agreement for a year was about $5,000. Former health department administrator Tisha Coleman requested that commissioners renew the agreement earlier this fall, but commissioners declined to act.
The machine, purchased a year ago, tests for COVID-19, influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and strep. Lancaster pointed out that if one of the machine’s four cassettes goes out, it costs $9,000 to replace.
The machine cost about $30,000 and was purchased with a one-year maintenance agreement. Lancaster said that some grant funds could be used to cover the cost of the maintenance plan.
She also told commissioners that the machine was able to detect RSV cases that were not detected by ordinary saliva tests.
While commissioners did not refuse to purchase the maintenance plan, they asked Lancaster to gather information on how many people had been tested for each of the four diseases since the machine was purchased.
She said she would return to the next meeting with that information.