FLORENCE — A grant application for $6.2 million for more COVID-19 testing in Pinal County was approved 3-2 by the public health board Wednesday.

Supervisor Kevin Cavanaugh, R-Coolidge, who voted against the grant, said testing being mandated is a concern for citizens, along with “federal encroachment, and letting them get their foot in the door in Pinal County with this $6 million.”

“… And is it going to do any good for Pinal County, or very little good, compared to what we’re potentially inviting in?” Cavanaugh asked. Supervisor Jeff Serdy, R-Apache Junction, joined Cavanaugh in voting no.

The grant is federal funds administered by the state “for enhanced detection, response, surveillance and prevention of COVID-19 with an emphasis on funding mobile units for COVID testing.”

Pinal County Public Health Director Tascha Spears said the county is not mandating that anyone be tested.

“The testing that we described in the application is for commercial labs to do the testing through mobile units,” Spears told the Board of Supervisors, sitting as the Pinal County Public Health Services District board.

Cavanaugh asked if any of the funding would be used to determine who is vaccinated and who isn’t.

Spears replied the grant isn’t designed or directed toward that specific issue. When people are tested they’re asked a series of questions, including whether they’ve been vaccinated. This is to determine “breakthrough cases,” and people may have the option of answering or not, she said.

“How will this help Pinal County?” Cavanaugh asked.

“How this will help Pinal County is that we will have more accessible COVID-19 testing,” Spears replied. “We actually ran out of funding back in January, and the state did pick up and helped us out with that. We used to have testing here in Florence at the library, we also had testing in Casa Grande … and we don’t have those.”

Cavanaugh asked Spears to discuss the effectiveness of PCR (saliva) testing.

“There have been debates in the literature and the research about PCR testing,” Spears said. “Some of these have been initiated by the person who actually developed PCR testing,” and those debates continue.

Cavanaugh further asked if the grant includes money for sending people to hotels, and why that occurs. Spears said “hoteling” isolates an infected person without reinfecting others in the household. “That money is available if it were to be needed.”

Cavanaugh asked how many who have died from COVID-19 in Pinal County had other chronic conditions. Spears said the last time she checked it was over 70%.

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Mark Cowling is the county reporter for PinalCentral and covers the town of Florence, San Tan Valley and the surrounding area. He can be reached at mcowling@pinalcentral.com.