CHICAGO – A nationwide coronavirus testing company under investigation by the Oregon Department of Justice and which has drawn criticism from customers in several states announced on Thursday a “one-week pause on all operations.”
The pause was expected to take effect Friday through Jan. 21 at all Center for COVID Control testing sites. The website for the Illinois-based company states that it operates more than 300 testing centers in various U.S. States. Washington and Massachusetts were the other two that took immediate action to shutter several testing centres in their areas.
USA TODAY was able to obtain an internal memo by the Center for COVID Control, which addressed “all owners and managers of locations” and discussed “increased media scrutiny into operations at our collection sites over the last week.”
This, along with customer complaints, led to various state departments of health and the Department of Justice becoming interested in our company,” said the notice.
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The company officially confirmed the weeklong pause in a press release, saying “unusually high patient demand has stressed staffing resources.”
Center for Covid Control is dedicated to providing the best possible care for our patients. Regrettably, due to our rapid growth and the unprecedented recent demand for testing, we haven’t been able to meet all our commitments,” Aleya Siyaj, the company’s founder and CEO, said in the release.
Company spokesperson Russ Keene confirmed the authenticity of the internal memo that was sent to employees.
The news of the weeklong pause comes after the Oregon Department of Justice opened a civil investigation into the Center for COVID Control this week on suspicion of Unfair Trade Practices Act violations, spokeswoman Kristina Edmunson said.
Edmunson stated that at least two individuals filed complaints against the Oregon Justice Department about the site late last year. Since USA TODAY reported on the company last week, another ten people have filed complaints, Edmunson said.
In Massachusetts, the Department of Public Health, in conjunction with the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, issued cease and desist letters to three Center for COVID Control locations Wednesday, spokesperson Ann Scales said.
Scales stated that residents are advised not to visit “the Center for COVID Control for COVID-19 testing.”
The sites in Needham, North Dartmouth and Worcester were performing tests “without the required state approvals” and were ordered to “immediately cease providing all services that require clinical laboratory licensure,” Scales said.
The Illinois Attorney General’s Office stated that seven of the complaints were from Illinois about the locations. Washington State has received two, according to the Washington State Attorney General’s Office.
On Wednesday, the city of Lakewood, Washington, shut down a Center for COVID Control testing site operating without a business license and notified local and state authorities, according to a press release.
“The City has no present knowledge of impropriety at this location beyond operation without a business license,” the release said. Both the Washington State Department of Health, and the Office of the Attorney General have been made aware of the potential national interest.
A coalition of regional offices and the non-profit Better Business Bureau are also investigating the possibility.
USA TODAY was told by Thomas Johnson of the BBB Chicago and Northern Illinois that Center for Covid Control is the business with the lowest BBB rating.
Center for COVID Control:Oregon DOJ, Better Business Bureau under investigation
Johnson stated that many people reported to BBB claim they were denied test results, got incorrect test results or spent money on expedited tests. Johnson claimed that the company “asked for lots of personal data” from customers and did not respond to questions about test results.
USA TODAY received numerous complaints about USA TODAY’s practice from people all over the country.
The Center for COVID Control stated in an internal memo to employees that customer complaints had been “hyperbolized”.
Although many accusations made against us seem exaggerated they are still valid. “We need to improve our compliance at our sites, the training of our staff, as well as our ability to report each test correctly.” The memo read.
This will not take too much time for anyone. During the ‘pause’ period, we need to work together to complete all compliance trainings, get all our documentation up to date, procure site-specific CLIA waivers and more,” the memo said.
A one-hour webinar was planned for Thursday afternoon by the company.
“Enforcing this ‘pause’ is something that needs to be done to protect the interest of all of us — it is essential for our mutual survivorship,” the memo said.
Account on Twitter tied to the company’s website was suspended Wednesday. Representatives of Twitter were contacted on Wednesday and Thursday but did not respond immediately to our inquiries.
Christina Weber, 31 years old, of Minneapolis told USA TODAY that she had reported the Center for COVID Control testing location to local officials. An investigator from the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office then reached out to her, who explained to her that the complaint was not unique.
John Stiles was the deputy chief of staff of the Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and stated that the office couldn’t confirm or deny whether there were any investigations or complaints.
WINK-TV reports that one Florida family submitted an online application for the Center for COVID Control and received the results. They were still in line for their test. USA TODAY couldn’t immediately confirm the report.
The Center for COVID Control’s principal and mailing address is in Rolling Meadows, Illinois – a one-story commercial office building about 15 miles northwest of O’Hare International Airport in Chicago.
According to the press release, Doctors Clinical Laboratory is used “primarily” by the company as a partner in clinical testing. This lab is an independently registered lab with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and listed at the Rolling Meadows location. An address for the laboratory is listed online. A telephone number directs the caller to a recorded message for Center for COVID Control.
The Center for COVID Control, which was founded in 2020 according to the company’s website, has brick-and mortar testing sites and drive-through locations. It claims to employ more than 3,300 Americans.
Do you have any issues with Center for COVID Control Grace Hauck, reporter at USA Today: [email protected]