A COVID-19 testing company operating three sites in the Portland metro area, as well as 300 across the country, is now under investigation in Oregon, WW has learned.
The company, Center for Covid Control, is already facing investigations in multiple states.
The Illinois-based company has one testing site in Northeast Portland, one in Southeast Portland, and one in Tigard. All three are closed today, according to the company’s call center, but the representative on the line could not say why.
The Oregon Department of Justice shared two complaints lodged against the company, and DOJ spokeswoman Ellen Klem tells WW it has opened an investigation against the company, but did not say when the investigation was opened.
“We have received complaints about this company and referred them to Oregon Department of Justice for investigation,” Oregon Health Authority spokesman Rudolf Owens said. He added that the state provided no funding for the company’s testing sites.
Owens added, “All testing sites must have a CLIA certificate and report results to OHA and local public health authorities” but did not say whether the state has received any testing results from the company yet.
Update, 6:45 pm Tuesday: The Oregon Health Authority says it’s received no test results from a company called “Center for Covid Control.” Owens says OHA has “elevated this issue to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services at its Seattle office,” who enforces CLIA licenses. The agency has also received no test results from Doctors Clinical Laboratory, the lab CCC claims to partner with.
CLIA stands for Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments, a 1988 law that requires any place conducting tests on human specimens to be certified. Center for Covid Control is listed in the national database, though its headquarters are listed as in Wisconsin, not Illinois.
Both complaints made to DOJ about the company were made last October.
One chronicled a woman’s suspicions after she took her test at one of the company’s sites. It read in part: “After swabbing myself and turning in the PCR test baggy, I saw that the Rapid tests expired in June of 2021, 3 months prior to my testing date. The haphazard workers there did not collect the used items after self-swabbing, so I still have the packaging and expired rapid test stick.”
She wrote that she received her result within a couple of hours and was suspicious about how workers were handling the tests: “This group just dropped the PCR test ziplocks into a cheap blue plastic bin on the ground. They also didn’t treat the used quick test items like medical waste. The younger worker who seemed clueless was told to write down on a blank sheet of paper what each person’s name is, what their rapid test result was, and to tell us that we would hear from them via email. The same blue bin was there for hours, yet my PCR lab test results were back to me via email in just a couple of hours.”
She wrote that she returned to the site, asked workers to look through the blue bin because she had dropped her ring in it to prove it was the same bin with her test in it. The worker said the bin hadn’t been replaced. “How could they have both kept the same bin full of PCR samples there AND sent the samples to a lab AND had results of PCR testing to me in less than 3 hours?” she wrote.
In Brazos County, Texas, a television station reported on Monday that the company had not reported test results to the health district. In Florida, Wink News did an investigation on CCC’s sites after hearing from people that they were getting emailed test results before they even took their tests. When the news outlet visited the site, the one employee manning the desk said he had started the job four hours before, and didn’t know who he was employed by. USA Today reported last week that complaints against the companies had been lodged with the attorney general’s offices in Oregon and Washington. The California Department of Public Health is investigating the company, too.
The company is also under investigation by the Better Business Bureau across four states.
In response to the allegations, the company’s media relations team emailed WW: “Let me be very clear—we are absolutely not conducting fake tests. Our employees and the employees of our independent operators are risking their lives everyday to provide testing for patients.”
The company did not provide a name for the spokesperson emailing. When asked about what they meant by contractors, and where those contractors were based and how it worked, the company did not reply.
None of the three testing sites in Portland could be reached by phone, and there was no way to leave a voicemail. An option was given to leave an “SMS notification” that would include the caller’s phone number. The testing center never got back to WW.
WW called the company’s call center in Illinois. The employee on the line said only rapid tests were being offered at the time. The person said all three labs in Portland were closed for all of today—even though on Google Maps, they were said to have opened at 10 am.