Montgomery County, Maryland, announced Tuesday that it has terminated a contract with a Rockville-based company that was providing and processing testing for the county's free COVID-19 test clinics.
The county shut down testing last week at all of its sites until further notice, after the state raised questions about protocols used with some test kits from the company, AdvaGenix. The Maryland Department of Health issued a cease-and-desist order Friday, prohibiting AdvaGenix from processing COVID-19 tests, the county said.
Anyone who was tested at a county-sponsored clinic in the past two weeks should be retested at another community-based clinic, the county said last week.
"We will resume testing as soon as possible," the county's website says.
The shutdown came after Maryland's department of health raised questions about protocols used with some test kits by AdvaGenix, which uses self-administered kits to collect saliva. These kits account for about 8% of all tests conducted in the county, adding up to hundreds every day.
“The state health department has raised questions about the protocols of AdvaGenix, the company that does our testing,” County Executive Marc Elrich said Thursday. “We decided to halt testing that used those kits.”
County officials said last week that state officials did not tell them specifically what they objected to about the test. The county said they stopped using them out of an abundance of caution.
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An anonymous tip suggested the need to test the effects of temperature on vials containing saliva samples.
Elrich and County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles announced they are pursuing new testing options. The county said Tuesday that the Maryland Department of Health has committed to replacing the next four weeks' worth of test supplies, and county officials are working to find additional test sources.
In an interview last Friday, AdvaGenix CEO and owner Dr. William Kearns defended his testing, calling it as close to 100% accurate as it can be.
He questioned whether a rival could be out to get him, hoping the county will switch to using different test kits.
“You mentioned my reputation. How do I get that back?" he asked.
Last Thursday, the county announced its testing sites in Germantown, Poolesville, Silver Spring and White Oak would temporarily close. A day later, it said it would close all of its sites until further notice.
The county continues to provide testing for people having symptoms via partnerships with other labs, it said. Anyone who has symptoms who needs help finding testing should call the Testing Helpline at 240-777-1755.