Irvine Approves Coronavirus Testing Contract, But Details Remain Unclear

JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

Mayor Christina Shea and City Manager John Russo during the Dec. 10, 2019, City Council meeting.

Irvine is starting coronavirus testing for residents on Monday, but details of the deal, including how much it will cost the city, remain unknown. 


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According to a city press release, a testing site in the Great Park will be able to take in 260 patients a day by appointment only, and the tests will be a self-swab supervised by “licensed healthcare professionals.”  

The city’s primary partner in the effort is Curogram, a software developer whose primary product is a messaging app for doctors to communicate with patients and is being used to schedule the tests, according to the contractor’s website. 

The tests will be offered to asymptomatic patients, and are available to any Irvine resident and other Orange County residents who can prove they work in Irvine. No one will pay for the tests, according to the press release, and Curogram will either bill their insurance or the city if they have none. 

Irvine is the first city in Orange County to offer coronavirus testing, with council members proudly sharing that residents will finally be able to get tested after the effort was announced over two months ago. 

“Irvine will be the first city in Orange County to provide testing to those that live and work in Irvine, regardless of whether they have symptoms,” wrote Councilwoman Melissa Fox on her blog. “We are now doing so because of the utter failure of the federal government and Orange County Board of Supervisors to provide testing.”  

But while the first appointments are set for Monday morning, details of the contract, including how much it will cost the city and which labs the city is specifically partnering with remain unclear. 

Curogram will not be providing the doctors on site for the testing, according to the press release, listing that they would come from several Orange County labs, including Costa Mesa-based Pangea Laboratory. The city did not respond to requests for comment seeking to clarify what other labs would be part of the effort. 

Curogram declined to comment for this article. 

The city did not release a copy of the contract with Curogram, issuing a press release at 4:45 Friday evening containing only information on how to get testing and a FAQ on its website for curious residents.

Requests for copies of the contract by Voice of OC were not returned, and according to Sgt. Karie Davies, the spokeswoman for the Irvine Police Department, the contract was still being finalized until last Thursday. The police department has been the lead agency in negotiating a testing contract along with the city manager’s office. 

The contract was also never publicly discussed by the City Council, aside from a short briefing by City Manager John Russo at the panel’s last meeting on June 23. He said the deal had been approved “in consultation with the council.” 

The city previously tried to negotiate a deal with US Health Fairs, a nonprofit health group started earlier this year, but talks collapsed after county officials shared concerns about the program and Voice of OC reporting showed one of the tests put forward did not have U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval.  

According to city staff reports at the time, the US Health Fairs contract was estimated to cost around $90,000 to start.

In the city’s municipal code under emergency services, the city manager is granted the power “to obtain vital supplies, equipment, and such other properties found lacking and needed for the protection of life and property and to bind the city for the fair value thereof,” but the code does not state a specific maximum dollar amount that the city manager can control under the state of emergency.  

After that article, Mayor Christina Shea called for a revote on the item stating that she had not realized the tests did not have emergency use authorization, and the council cancelled the proposed contract. 

“It turned out we felt we wanted to be certain that when we eventually did promote and produce our own program that the people who live and work in Irvine could rely upon that testing program,” Russo told the council in his June 23 presentation.   

The Curogram program will continue for the next month, at which point it will be brought back to the City Council for discussion on whether or not it’s still necessary, but no further discussion on the testing regimen is currently scheduled. 

Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at nbiesiada@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @NBiesiada.