The Carlton County Board of Commissioners authorized disbursement of Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds to several county departments during their regular board meeting Tuesday, Sept. 8.
The county received $4.4 million in federal aid from the CARES Act to help cover COVID-19 related costs.
Public Health and Human Services (PHHS) Director Dave Lee requested $68,000 out of the $800,000 earmarked for the department be used to purchase a COVID-19 rapid testing machine. The county is partnering with Community Memorial Hospital on the purchase. They are also working together to create a priority list of people who may benefit from a rapid test.
CMH Administrator/CEO Rick Breuer attended the meeting virtually to explain how the BioFire Torch rapid testing machine works and to answer questions.
"We're all pretty excited to bring this into the county," Breuer said. "This is a great partnership with PHHS."
He explained that the hospital will purchase the supplies, such as the collection materials necessary for a test kit. Each test kit costs about $100. The machine will be housed at the hospital.
Breuer said the new machine will provide results in approximately one hour instead of several days. Because of limited supplies, at this time the rapid test will only be used in certain scenarios.
It is the most accurate test for COVID-19 available right now, Breuer said.
"It could change the way we treat the person if the test came back positive," Breuer said.
District 4 Commissioner Mark Thell asked if the rapid test will help the county be better prepared if COVID-19 continues into 2021.
“There is not anyone in the county who has the rapid test,” Breuer said. “We still have a long slog ahead of us, we all know that. We think this will help us for years to come.”
As of Tuesday, Sept. 8, 43 people tested positive out of the 1,680 people tested for COVID-19 at CMH and CMH Raiter Family Clinic, Breuer said.
The board unanimously approved the request. Breuer said they expect to have the machine by the end of October.
County Coordinator Dennis Genereau asked the board to approve up to $800,000 in expenditures for small businesses and nonprofit organizations; $800,000 for community communications; $800,000 for community investment and infrastructure; as well as the remainder of the $800,000 for PHHS.
That leaves $1.2 million in reserves for any other COVID-19 related expenses that come up, Genereau said.
The board approved all of the requests.