The Irvine City Council unanimously agreed on Tuesday May 26 to not approve a contract with US Health Fairs for no-cost drive-through COVID-19 testing at the Orange County Great Park.  

The vote reverses a decision made earlier this month at the May 12 City Council meeting during which Irvine city leaders approved a $95,000 antigen and antibody testing program at the Great Park.

However, city leaders later clarified during a Virtual Town Hall that the city would not provide antibody tests due to the lack of FDA approval. Irvine Mayor Christina Shea submitted a memo on May 19 asking the city to reconsider both antigen and antibody tests for the public, after County Health Officer Nichole Quick released a statement concerning the accuracy of tests being offered.

“Now understanding that the antibody tests do not have FDA Emergency Use Authorization, and for the safety, health and credibility of our community, I must request a revote,” the memo stated.

The council’s decision to not move forward with the US Health Fairs contract is based on a new interpretation of an FDA rule, which prohibits these non-FDA approved tests to be performed outside of a laboratory setting. The rule change was brought to the attention of the county by County Health Officer Dr. Nichole Quick. 

In a statement, Quick addressed the new rule changes, which were read to Irvine leaders by Irvine Police Chief Mike Hamel during the meeting.  

“Any kind of testing event would be prohibited to US Health Fairs to offer antibody test until or unless the antibody test they are using is granted its EUA.”  

The city had concerns with several aspects of US Health Fairs’ handling and reporting of tests, along with the handling and collection of specimens.

“Staff at this time is not recommending we sign a contract with US Health Fairs. Furthermore we can bring the contract back a later time — if or when US Health Fairs can sufficiently address our concerns, while we also make efforts to find other testing options,” Hamel explained.

Before the vote, Mayor Shea thanked the chief for his due diligence in investigating the city’s concerns and explained that she would not feel comfortable knowing there’s a chance for testing inaccuracies. 

“We’re not going to be providing any kind of testing for our residents that is not to a standard that we would expect,” she said. “I’m very sad that we’re not having this drive through testing right now because it is very important to all of us. We thought it would be a great advantage for our residents, but it’s much better to be safe than sorry.”  

There is no-cost testing is available for symptomatic and asymptomatic health care workers, first responders, social service workers and other essential workers who have been unable to get tested through their health care providers or employers at four sites in Orange County. Residents can make an appointment at a testing site in Buena Park, Orange, Santa Ana or San Juan Capistrano, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 8 p.m.