Dallas County ends contract with COVID-19 testing lab over accuracy, timeliness concerns

Dallas County is ending its contract with the company that runs one of the largest COVID-19 testing sites in North Texas.

Dallas might not use private vendors to run testing sites anymore because of concerns with timeliness and accuracy.

Honu Management Group started administering tests at Eastfield College in Mesquite earlier this month.

Dallas County Commissioners used money from the federal CARES Act to pay Honu because it was taking too long for the federally-run site to get test results back. Honu promised results within 72 hours.

Earlier this month, commissioners questioned the company’s long turnaround times and the accuracy of the test results.

People getting tested in Dallas are waiting longer to get their results, despite a 40 percent drop in people getting tested.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins says Hony, the private company hired for millions of dollars to run testing at one site, was taking three days just to get tests to a lab in Austin for processing.

“You could have gotten them there faster in a backpack on a bicycle than they were getting them there,” Jenkins said.

Dallas has canceled its $14 million contract with Honu. The city says it promised a 72-hour test result turnaround time. Instead, the average wait for test results from Dallas’ public testing sites is six days, according to the county.

Dallas County started investigating the problem after FOX 4 reported last week that father and son, Cliff and Chris Cozby, waited more than a week to get results from the Honu site.

“Dr. Fauci says if you don’t get your results back within five days, it really becomes less valuable to contact trace,” Jenkins said.

Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson launched an audit into how Honu won the multi-million dollar contract after a number of concerns were reported, including an unusually low positivity rate of 7 percent at Honu’s test site compared to much higher rates at others, like 17 percent positivity at Parkland’s test site.

A statement from the mayor’s office Tuesday reads, “We went ahead with the switch to a private vendor from the federal government because it would be father, so longer wait times are obviously not acceptable.”

Now, Parkland Hospital will operate testing at the Eastfield College site, which Honu used to run.

“We want to get those results. We want them to be accurate and timely,” Jenkins said.

It’s unclear right now how much of the contract the city of Dallas had paid out. The county has not paid any of its part of the deal.