Some Bay Area COVID-19 test sites that are under NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit’s microscope announced Thursday that they will temporarily close.
Patients and regulators have raised serious questions about the company “Center for COVID Control” and how it handles COVID-19 tests.
While the Center for COVID Control’s name might sound like a government agency, it’s actually a private company from Illinois with a couple hundred pop-up test locations nationwide. At least three sites are in the Bay Area: San Jose, Mountain View, and San Ramon.
The company said on Thursday that it is closing down operations nationwide for a week to reset itself.
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Consumer complaints have mushroomed in the Bay Area and around the country.
In San Jose, the first complaint NBC Bay Area received was from a viewer who said she never got her results from a December test.
In Chicago, our NBC Responds team talked with a family that registered for a test but walked out before anyone tested them. Despite that, Center for COVID Control sent them all results.
NBC Bay Area's Investigative Unit and Responds teams have been asking questions for a week. We discovered that the Californias Department of Public Health is investigating complaints. In addition, the city of Mountain View said its police department is investigating the company. Center for COVID Control doesn’t have a business license, the city said.
CCC's CEO released a statement. It says, in part:
“Unusually high patient demand has stressed staffing resources, as has been widely reported, in a subset of our locations, affecting our usual customer service standards and diagnostic goals.” The company goes on to say it will use the weeklong closure for "additional staff training in sample collection and handling" and to "ensure compliance with regulatory guidelines."
The person listed as Center for COVID Control's CEO in business records, Aleya Siyaj, does not appear to have any previous medical or lab experience. Her LinkedIn page says she has operated an Illinois bar where axe-throwing is a big draw.
Not all Center for COVID Control locations are closing voluntarily.
On Thursday, the state of Massachusetts confirmed that it has ordered the company to shut down there. “The order, effective immediately, requires the Center for COVID Control to immediately cease providing all services that require clinical laboratory licensure,” the state's public health office said.
In the Bay Area, NBC Bay Area has observed, firsthand, long lines at CCC locations all week. Many Bay Area residents were using Center for COVID Control for COVID-19 tests. Now, regulators are now investigating those tests.
So if you took a CCC test, what should you do now?
NBC Bay Area asked the Santa Clara County Health Department. It said, “anyone who feels their test was not legitimate should feel free to sign up for another test. They should also report any suspect business practice to local law enforcement.”
What about personal info?
The Center for COVID Control's intake form does require personal info, like an image of your driver's license. No investigators have accused the Center for COVID Control of using data improperly. Still, if the company is as sloppy with patient data as it’s accused of being with COVID-19 tests, at least some concern seems fair.
The best way to protect yourself is to check your credit report for suspicious activity. You can also lock down your credit file or set up alerts for unauthorized activity. Many credit cards include those services free, so check with your bank -- often right in their app.