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Central District Health Rejects State Funds To Test Teachers And Staff For COVID-19

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Last week, Idaho’s public health districts received funds to put toward testing school teachers and staff for COVID-19, which were earmarked by Gov. Little in July. But one health district is rejecting the state’s money. 

Central District Health, which covers Ada, Boise, Elmore and Valley counties, said in an email that it will not accept a subgrant it received from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. The sum was just under $400,000 to facilitate faster COVID-19 testing for teachers and staff, and to cover the cost of testing if insurance would not. 

The state’s largest two school districts are in Central District Health’s territory.

The health district said in an email that it turned down the money after careful consideration beacuse it believes that increased testing capacity and the timely turnaround of results are crucial, especially now that many schools in the region have returned to in-person classes.

 

Central District Health believes primary care providers are the most appropriate people to provide COVID-19 testing and follow up care.

 

"Currently, Central District Health is not a testing site," Public Information Officer Christine Myron wrote in an email, "rather we support out community's health care providers offering COVID testing." 

 

Another problem, the health district said, is it would need to recruit and hire additional staff in a short period of time to make use of the funds, which would be costly and time intensive. And the arrangement would put the health district in a position to become a payer for testing services, which it doesn’t want to do. It says it does not have the necessary infrastructure, which would include ways to detect fraud. 

 

Though Central District Health doesn't see itself as a testing provider, this contradicts state recommendations from August, which suggest that health districts should consider providing testing at district offices or setting up rapid response teams to handle testing in schools.

 

The health district said it’s working with school districts to facilitate testing in other ways, such as making more rapid testing machines available.

Several other health districts are still figuring out how to use the subgrant, which became available October 1, but no other health district has indicated plans to turn down the money thus far.  

 

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen 

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