COVID-19 testing pop-ups halt operations after complaints

  • 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.

    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. Jake Griffin | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 1/15/2022 9:44 AM

A company running multiple COVID-19 testing clinics throughout the suburbs has halted operations amid complaints from clients about missing results and reports of pending investigations by state and federal regulators.

The Center for COVID Control was operating dozens of testing clinics throughout the suburbs and in Chicago until Thursday, when the sites were abruptly closed.

 

A statement from the company called it a "pause" in operations to regroup and add more staff in the wake of the effects the omicron variant has had on clinic personnel numbers.

"Center for COVID Control is committed to serving our patients in the safest, most accurate and most compliant manner," said founder and CEO Aleya Siyaj. "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."

Siyaj said the clinics are expected to reopen Jan. 22.

Illinois Department of Public Health officials have been warning residents to stick to trusted testing sites listed on the agency's website, dph.illinois.gov/covid19/testing.

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul issued a statement earlier this week also warning residents about problems at some pop-up clinics.

"It is important for people to know that these sites are not licensed or regulated by a government agency, and they should ask questions before visiting a pop-up testing location -- or try to utilize a state-sponsored testing site," Raoul said.

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However, some county health agencies, such as the DuPage County Health Department, were directing residents to these unregulated pop-up testing sites as recently as Friday, despite the state's warnings. DuPage County Health removed links to Center for COVID Control clinics from its own website late Friday morning.

The Better Business Bureau has given the company an F rating as well, according to its website.

"The BBB of Chicago & Northern Illinois is actively looking into this company as they have recently received numerous complaints both locally and from across the country," a statement on the watchdog group's website reads. "Consumers allege problems with not receiving test results, poor customer service and requesting personally identifiable information."

Block Club Chicago uncovered problems with pop-up testing clinics a few weeks ago in the city and reported Thursday that a federal oversight agency had flagged the laboratory used by Center for COVID Control for "noncompliance" and "deficiencies." The Block Club Chicago report indicates tens of thousands of tests were wasted because they were improperly handled.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Officials at IDPH said they were investigating the laboratories involved in processing specimens submitted by Center for COVID Control sites.

"We have looked into labs associated with Center for COVID Control, including Doctors Clinical Lab, but we are unable to provide additional details at this time," IDPH spokeswoman Melaney Arnold said. "Complaints for laboratories are confidential."

Any consumer with a complaint about a testing site is urged to file a report with Raoul's office online at ccformsubmission.ilag.gov.

Due to the increased demand in testing, IDPH has increased hours of operation at three of the state's mass testing sites in the suburbs to seven days a week, including the site at 2450 N. Farnsworth Ave. in Aurora.

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