January 27, 2022
Coronavirus

COVID-19 testing sites are popping up. Here’s how you can avoid questionable ones

IDPH officials warn some pop-up clinics are not reliable

A pop-up COVID-19 testing clinic in the south suburbs is now closed, but it was never listed as one of the Illinois Department of Public Health's approved testing sites and state officials are warning residents to be wary about any unapproved sites.

As new cases of COVID-19 have grown in recent weeks, so have complaints about several suburban testing clinics that have left customers without promised results or delays so lengthy it renders the results useless.

State and local public health officials are urging residents to find tests at state-approved testing sites available on the Illinois Department of Public Health website, dph.illinois.gov/covid19/testing.

IDPH officials warn some pop-up clinics are not reliable.

“We do want to urge some caution with some of these clinics,” IDPH director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said Monday. “There, unfortunately, are those who are taking advantage of these crazy times to try to scam people.”

But residents desperate to get tested are left with few options even though the state’s 10 mass testing sites have recently added staffing and resumed operating six days a week, up from four days, due to the crush in demand that has created lengthy waits. The state’s 19 saliva-based SHIELD testing sites are also often packed with those seeking tests.

Appointments at national pharmacy chains are clogged as well, while home-testing kits are also sold out in most places.

“I get tested regularly because I am often in close contact with others and due to my parents’ medical conditions, so I’ve seen the operations of many different testing sites and some are very bad,” said Micah Schuurman, a teacher and pastor from Costa Rica who has been back at his Winfield home for months with his parents who suffer from blood cancer. “There’s one site in West Chicago that my sister and I went to and she still hasn’t received her results and it’s been more than a week. I’ve been there before and sometimes if we’re even able to get results, it often comes emailed in a corrupted file. It’s only gotten worse though.”

At the most recent visit, Schuurman said the clinic was being operated by just a single worker instead of the dozen or so at other clinics he’s been tested at.

Operators of that West Chicago site, a nationwide outfit called Center for COVID Control, did not respond to emails and phone calls about Schuurman’s complaints and others at sites they run elsewhere in the suburbs.

None of the company’s clinics are listed on the state’s testing website. The company’s website only says it is “partnered” with a licensed laboratory, but does not specify which one.

“If you have any doubts about the testing location that you’re looking at, go ahead and ask some questions,” Ezike said.

Ask what laboratory the clinic is affiliated with, when the results will be ready and who will be sending those results, she said.

Testing is also free, she added. Any clinic asking for payment is not a legitimate operation.

Because these clinics are classified as businesses, IDPH has no oversight of them, an agency spokeswoman said. IDPH officials are directing anyone who believes they have been scammed by a pop-up testing clinic to contact Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s office.

“Throughout the pandemic, the attorney general’s office has been dedicated to protecting consumers from scams related to COVID and has engaged with law enforcement partners to investigate pandemic-related scams, which include those related to testing,” said Annie Thompson, a spokeswoman for Raoul. “We are encouraging members of the public who believe they have encountered a testing site that is operating improperly to file a complaint with the attorney general’s consumer protection division by visiting our website, illinoisattorneygeneral.gov.”

Most clinics will request insurance information for billing purposes, but it is not required at some, particularly the state-run sites.

Colleen Miller, a Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Illinois spokeswoman, directed any client who believes they were taken advantage of to contact Raoul’s office or call the insurance carrier’s fraud hotline (800) 543-0867.