Last week, WW first reported that the Oregon Department of Justice had launched an investigation into a COVID-19 testing company called Center for Covid Control, which operated three testing sites—two which were sheds placed in parking lots—in the Portland area.
Though justice officials first received two complaints about the company in October, the state didn’t launch a formal investigation into the company until last week. The company’s lab partner, Doctors Clinical Laboratory—which is effectively run by CCC, according to a USA Today report earlier this week—has received $124 million from a federal program that pays companies that provide COVID-19 testing to the uninsured.
But since the investigation launched, DOJ has received at least 22 more complaints from Oregonians who visited the sites.
A quarter of the complainants reported having never received their PCR test results back. Three complainants wrote they had gotten negative rapid test results, then went to another clinic and tested positive. Others worried the personal information they filled out for the company, including health insurance and driver’s license information, would be used for fraudulent purposes.
One man wrote he had been tested on Nov. 3 at the Southeast Portland site, which was a shed and a foldout table in the parking lot of a convenience store, and hadn’t received his PCR test result by Jan. 12, the date he filed the complaint.
“After the rapid test was complete, the worker instructed me to throw my swab and other material into a trash bin behind their building,” the man wrote. “I asked how I was supposed to get PCR results if they weren’t keeping the swab, and they said it was already done as part of the rapid test...I never received PCR test results.”
Another man wrote on Jan. 12 that he took his test back to his car and swabbed his nose.
“I then walked two blocks back to the testing site. Upon arrival I walked into an extremely chaotic room where they were completing the tests. I waited here another 10 minutes before personnel received my sample. Approximately five minutes later, I received an email from them with a negative test result. There was a large number of tests on the table to be completed ahead of mine. I can’t see how this could possibly be a legitimate test. On top of it all, I received yet another email today (1/22) saying I was there for another test today, different time and everything!”
Another complainant said the test he took was expired: “It did not seem legit nor did the tests, they were from Hong Kong, some expired. I ended up leaving because I did not feel comfortable submitting a test.”
One woman wrote that she took two separate rapid tests at one of the sites in early December, and both came back negative. She never got results of her PCR tests. “I too have been determined to have had COVID in early December, according to an antibody test this week ordered by my doctor when my symptoms continued. I and others like me who received negative test results reentered our workplaces and potentially compromised others’ health status.”
When asked why an investigation wasn’t launched sooner, DOJ spokeswoman Kristina Edmunson cited an insufficient number of complaints, an evaluation that changed after intensified scrutiny of the company’s operations in multiple states last week. (DOJ also told WW ot had combined this investigation with the investigation of another COVID-19 testing company, Community Wellness America.)
“Many times we do not open a formal file until we are able to gather more information or we receive a pattern of complaints. The additional information leading to opening a formal file...was not received until this week,” Edmunson said. “We logged the information we had—which was not enough to open a separate investigation at that time—with the other related case.”
In addition, the Oregon Health Authority told WW last week it had received no test results from the company or its partner lab since it began operating as early as October—a violation of state and federal law.
Earlier this week, WW reported on how such a company, which boasted 300 sites across the nation, could operate with little to no scrutiny or oversight since at least October of last year.
An unnamed spokesperson for Center for Covid Control issued a statement to WW on Jan. 20.
In it, the spokesperson attributed delayed results or results that were never delivered to patients to a high demand for tests that overwhelmed the company.
“This demand extended to our primary lab partner, Doctors Clinical Laboratory. Despite attempts to manage this demand...the sustained volume of tests continued to put an unmanageable amount of strain on our systems,” the spokesperson said. “One of the root causes for the increase in inconclusive samples was the uptick in shipping times between our testing sites and our labs. Because of the extended window between when the samples were taken and when they were delivered to the lab, a large number of specimens became unusable. When samples are contaminated or otherwise inconclusive, the lab does not issue a bill of any kind. The cost of these tests is effectively covered by the administering organization. Furthermore, any specimen that does not pass Doctors Clinical Laboratory’s rigorous internal control prior to testing will register as inconclusive.”
CCC did not respond to questions why the state has received no test results from the company or Doctors Clinical Laboratory.