A nationwide COVID-19 test company that the federal government has paid more than $100 million will keep its doors closed indefinitely. The Center for COVID Control (CCC) is under investigation in several states, including California, for mishandling people’s COVID-19 tests.
“All CCC locations are to be closed until further notice,” a company spokesman said on Friday. Faced with increasing scrutiny, Center for COVID Control said last week that it was voluntarily pausing its operations for a week to re-train staff and achieve compliance.
A week came and went.
Doors were then due to re-open Saturday, including three San Francisco Bay Area locations -- one each in San Jose, San Ramon, and Mountain View. But on Friday, a CCC spokesperson confirmed that the company’s 300 or so locations will remain closed.
“Center for Covid Control (CCC) is extending its pause on operations and will not be reopening on Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022,” the spokesperson said in an email to NBC Bay Area. “We remain committed to providing the highest level of customer service and diagnostic quality and will not resume collection of patient samples until staffing resources permit us to operate at full capacity.”
Not all locations are closed voluntarily. Investigators in Massachusetts, for example, forced some Center for COVID Control locations to shut down.
Over the past few weeks, patients have complained that the Illinois-based company and its lab, Doctors Clinical Laboratory, failed to deliver results, delivered inaccurate results, or delivered results when people weren’t even tested.
In Mountain View, Alan Arndt got a PCR test in December. He’s still waiting for results. “It never showed up,” he said. “I sent [CCC] an email about that. Never heard back on the email. And it’s been like three weeks now.”
A Medicare inspection of CCC’s Illinois lab partner showed multiple deficiencies, according to a report obtained by NBC Bay Area. The federal inspectors noted, among other things: staff improperly handled temperature-sensitive samples, techs left some samples unlabeled, workers improperly read test results -- either too early or too late, and staff lacked proper training. Many patients’ samples are likely to have spoiled, rendering their results useless, the report said.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison sued CCC and DCL this week on behalf of patients in that state.
“They trusted they would get accurate results on time. They didn’t get that. We’re holding these companies accountable,” Ellison said.
The Minnesota suit says CCC and DCL’s results “are often deceptively riddled with inaccurate and false information.”
CCC and DCL did not comment on the lawsuit. A spokesman did say that the companies’ policy was to not bill the government for testing spoiled samples.
Between them, the companies have collected more than $100 million from the federal government for COVID-19 testing, according to a CDC database. Center for COVID Control clearly saw a lot of people, because it offered an attractive choice: large signs boasted “FREE” tests and no appointments were necessary. Lines were long at many locations.
Now, given the scrutiny on CCC’s collection practices and DCL’s reliability, it might be wise for those who got CCC tests to get re-tested. Public health officials in Santa Clara County, home of two CCC locations, urged exactly that if patients question whether their COVID-19 tests were accurate.
Free Santa Clara County test sites can be found here: https://covid19.sccgov.org/covid-19-testing
On Friday, it was unclear when Center for COVID Control might resume operations.
“CCC will provide an update on reopening plans when appropriate,” the company said in a statement on its website.