Local News

COVID-19 pop-up testing sites come under scrutiny

Center for COVID Control shuts 300 sites as attorney general issues consumer alert

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.

Pop-up COVID-19 testing sites have come under scrutiny, and one company – Center for COVID Control – with sites in Kane, McHenry, DuPage, Lake, DeKalb and Cook counties has temporarily shut them down, officials said in multiple news releases.

The federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is investigating complaints connected to Center for COVID Control, according to an email from Dr. Lee Fleisher, chief medical officer and director of the Center for Clinical Standards and Quality at the CMS.

“To be clear, the Center for COVID Control is not a federal agency,” Fleisher said in an email. “CMS is actively investigating numerous complaints about multiple laboratories and testing sites associated with this private company. It is our understanding that the Center for COVID Control voluntarily suspended their operations through Jan. 22. CMS continues our investigations and will take compliance and enforcement actions as appropriate.”

Fleisher said the agency takes complaints regarding COVID-19 testing sites seriously.

“CMS’s Center for Clinical Standards and Quality investigates these kinds of complaints and is aware of several alleged instances of misconduct by this company’s labs,” according to the email. “We know that people want to feel confident that the testing sites they visit are reputable and the results they receive are accurate.”

McHenry County Department of Health spokeswoman Lindsey Salvatelli confirmed that the county health department received complaints about Center for COVID Control’s Huntley testing site location.

Kane County Public Health Department spokeswoman Susan Stack said in an email that as far as she knows, Kane County has not received any complaints.

About 300 Center for Covid Control testing sites are closed and will reopen Jan. 22, according to the company’s website, www.centerforcovidcontrol.org.

According to a map on its website, the company has testing sites listed in St. Charles, Sugar Grove, South Elgin, Elgin, West Dundee, DeKalb, Woodstock, Gurnee, Richmond, Lake Villa, Harvard, Elmhurst, Crystal Lake, Algonquin, Bensenville, West Chicago, Winfield and Plainfield.

“Center for Covid Control is committed to serving our patients in the safest, most accurate and most compliant manner,” founder and CEO Aleya Siyaj is quoted in a release on its website. “Regrettably, due to our rapid growth and the unprecedented recent demand for testing, we haven’t been able to meet all our commitments. We’ve made this difficult decision to temporarily pause all operations until we are confident that all collection sites are meeting our high standards for quality.”

The release did not acknowledge complaints about Center for Covid Control, and the company did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Illinois Department of Public Health spokeswoman Melaney Arnold said in an email that the agency was aware of complaints about the Center for COVID Control but was “unable to provide additional details at this time.”

“Complaints for laboratories are confidential,” according to Arnold’s email. “People who encounter a testing site they believe is operating fraudulently should file a complaint on the attorney general’s website, www.IllinoisAttorneyGeneral.gov.”

Only lab results, not testing supplies and their use, are reported to the IDPH, Arnold said.

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul issued a consumer alert regarding all pop-up COVID-19 testing sites and the price-gouging of at-home rapid tests.

A nationwide shortage of COVID-19 tests and available testing appointments has led many Illinois residents to turn to what are known as pop-up testing sites, which are not licensed or regulated by any government agency and which cannot have their legitimacy confirmed by the attorney general’s office, according to a news release on the attorney general’s website.

Raoul recommends that people first try to use a state-sponsored testing site to the extent possible. Individuals can contact their health care providers for testing or testing center recommendations. People also can find a testing location by visiting the websites of the Illinois Department of Public Health, the Cook County Department of Health and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The attorney general’s office is offering guidance and encouraging people to exercise caution before visiting any testing site.

Those going to a nonstate-sponsored testing site should consider what tests are done, who analyzes the results, what lab it uses and search www.cdc.gov to determine whether the lab used is Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments certified.

Raoul also cautioned that people being asked to pay out of pocket represents a red flag because if they are insured, insurance should pay, and if not, the company would be paid by a federal fund.

Update: This article has been updated to correct what agency had received complaints regarding the Center for COVID Control’s Huntley location. It was the McHenry County Department of Health.