County gets more COVID test kits after receiving defective ones

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After waiting more than two months to receive coronavirus tests this spring, the Ouray County Public Health Agency received 300 kits in May, only to find that dozens were defective and unusable.

Public Health Director Tanner Kingery said about 45 of the 300 tests he received had problems.

Each test is supposed to contain a vial with a liquid reagent “that keeps the sample viable as it’s being transported back and forth,” Kingery said. But some of the kits had no fluid, or the reagent was leaking because the cap wasn’t secure.

“Some of them had mold growing in them or bugs in them,” he said.

The kits, which are manufactured in Korea, also contain nasal and oral swabs, which must be stored in the vial before they are taken to a lab for testing.

The Colorado State Emergency Operations Center attributed the issues to transporting the test kits to the state and to local health departments.

“We are aware some of the recently distributed Accuviral collection kits contained mold and/or included vials that had lost their seal,” the center said in a statement. “We believe the issue occurred as a result of air pressure change when the kits were rapidly transported by air and then across the state for distribution.”

Kingery said Ouray County wasn’t the only one to receive defective tests.

“It sounds like multiple people are experiencing the same thing,” he said.

The problems didn’t delay testing locally, which is still being done fairly infrequently at the Public Health Agency. After eliminating the defective tests, the department was left with more than 250 usable swabs; as of Tuesday, only 44 tests have been completed there.

After documenting the problems and reporting them to the state, Kingery requested more tests and received roo more, he said. That order was filled in less than a week.

“It’s been a lot easier to order stuff now,” he said. “It’s getting a lot better as far as getting tests.”

The state is now checking test kits before sending them to local health departments, the Emergency Operations Center said. “The bulk of the problem seems to be tied to one supply shipment, but we are now inspecting the contents of each package before distributing them.”