COVID Testing Company Pauses Operations Amid Investigations

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LAKEWOOD, WA — A nationwide COVID-19 testing company is halting operations at hundreds of testing centers amid a series of investigations — including one from Washington state — about the company’s business practices.

Center for Covid Control, an Illinois-based company with 300 testing centers around the country, including nearly a dozen across Puget Sound, announced Thursday that they are pausing all operations for at least a week. They plan to reopen on Saturday, January 22.

“Center for Covid Control is committed to serving our patients in the safest, most accurate and most compliant manner,” said CCC Founder and CEO Aleya Siyaj. “Regrettably, due to our rapid growth and the unprecedented recent demand for testing, we haven’t been able to meet all our commitments.”

Find out what’s happening in Lakewood-JBLM with free, real-time updates from Patch.

CCC’s statement comes in the wake of several high-profile investigations into their operation. Washington, Oregon, Massachusetts and California all began investigating CCC after receiving complaints about the way the company handled its tests. Some even questioned whether test results sent to patients were based on actual lab results. In Oregon, for example, the Oregon Health Authority says it has received no test results from the company, despite a law requiring results to be passed along to state or local health agencies.

In Washington, one of the first warning signs came from the City of Lakewood. Lakewood Communications Manager Jim Kopriva told Patch that a concerned Reddit user alerted him to a suspicious testing site on Bridgeport Way South-West.

Find out what’s happening in Lakewood-JBLM with free, real-time updates from Patch.

“There were all sorts of questions regarding the veracity of their tests and their process for handling sensitive consumer information,” Kopriva said.

Kopriva called Lakewood code enforcement, who quickly discovered the CCC testing site was operating without a business license. When warned, CCC closed the site Wednesday, but the City of Lakewood also issued a “Stop-Work Order” and alerted the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, Washington State Department of Health, Attorney General’s Office, and the FBI, among others.

“From the city’s perspective, when a business is collecting thousands of our resident’s personal information, conducting this vital testing at the height of this pandemic, and they can’t be bothered with a 73 dollar business license, that was of grave concern,” Kopriva said.

Kopriva said the CCC testing site had been operating for quite some time, and likely gathered data from hundreds of residents, if not more.

“I’ve heard of this place, residents have been tested there and just like anyone else, I didn’t think anything of it,” Kopriva said.

After receiving Lakewood’s warning, the City of University Place found its Center for Covid Control site was also operating without a business license. It too has since been shut down. However, other CCC sites remain active in Everett, Lynnwood, Seattle, Bellevue, Port Orchard, and Auburn.

The Washington State Department of Health told KING 5 it is aware of 10 Centers for Covid Control testing sites, and that they are not licensed by the state.

“We believe the company is not testing in Washington State, only collecting samples,” said Katie Pope, a spokesperson with the DOH told KING 5. “We cannot verify appropriate handling of test specimens, proper storage of protected health information, or results.”

Kopriva said he wouldn’t be surprised if they also lacked business licenses.

“Try code enforcement in your location,” Kopriva said. “Broader investigation of their practices might take longer, but if you have a business so lazy that they can’t get a license, then that might be the quickest way to intervene.”

A COVID-19 testing site operating in UP in the UP Crossing Center was found to be operating improperly, without a valid business license & has now been closed. Before testing, access legitimate testing site information on the @TPCHD website at https://t.co/iQjjHti3mK. pic.twitter.com/IOb67t7yPk

— University Place, WA (@CityofUPWA) January 13, 2022

As for the other allegations, Kopriva stressed that Lakewood had no evidence that CCC had abused resident’s private information or that testing specimens had been improperly handled — that’s for other agencies to investigate — but the city is warning others to ask questions if they think something is off about a testing site.

“It’s tough to tell good from bad, all of these sites appear impromptu,” Kopriva said. “Our big vaccine clinic is in a Dress Barn location in the Towne Center Mall because this is how emergency management works, we’ve got to stand up locations where you can get them.”

According to Public Health – Seattle & King County, one of the biggest signs something is wrong is inappropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) use, which can cause potential contamination in the testing process and inaccurate results. KIRO 7 spoke with one Washingtonian who got tested at a CCC location, who told reporters she noticed something was off when staff members weren’t wearing masks.

When in doubt, the Department of Health, King and Pierce counties all maintain lists of free, vetted testing locations.

The Center for Covid Control is not the first testing operation to be accused of fraudulent activity in Washington. Last April, King County issued a public warning after receiving multiple reports of unauthorized mobile COVID-19 test operations, pop-up testing tables that likely provided inaccurate results and may have been illegally gathering patient data.

Related: ‘Unusual’ Coronavirus Testing Sites Prompt Warning In King County

Patch Editors Colin Miner and Lucas Combos both contributed to this report.

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