COVID test sites remain closed amid investigations into provider

Ten coronavirus test sites across southeast Wisconsin will remain closed until further notice. Meanwhile, investigations into the test provider are heating up.

The Center for COVID Control (CCC) initially announced plans to shut down nationwide operations for one week. Its CEO, Aleya Siyaj, said she planned to reopen the sites on Saturday, January 22nd after retraining staff on sample collection and handling.

On Jan. 20, the test provider announced it would extend the closures.

A press release reads the company "will not resume collection of patient samples until staffing resouces permit CCC to operate at full capacity… CCC is using this operational pause to train additional staff on sample collection and handling, customer service and communications best practices, as well as compliance with regulatory guidelines."

The press release goes on to say, "CCC will provide an update on reopening plans when appropriate."

On Saturday, the FBI searched the CCC’s suburban Chicago headquarters amid complaints of fraudulent activity and questionable results.

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A CCC spokesman tells Contact 6, "For the past several weeks, Center for Covid Control has been in communication with a number of regulatory and law enforcement agencies regarding the company’s operations.  On January 22, 2022, federal law enforcement agents executed a search warrant at the company’s main office as part of what appears to be a similar investigation.  Although we cannot provide specific comments regarding ongoing investigations, the company intends to fully cooperate with all government inquiries, and remains committed to providing the best service possible to our patients."

Last week, Earl Mickler of Sussex told Contact 6 that he got a negative result from one CCC site in Waukesha before he even showed up for the test. Mickler said he was worried about the consequences of someone getting an inaccurate result from one of these sites.

"What if something happens to that person now? That they get really sick?" asked Mickler.

The Minnesota attorney general has filed a lawsuit against the company accusing it of deceiving consumers.

Its press release reads, "the Attorney general received numerous complaints from Minnesotans who submitted COVID-19 tests at pop-up sites around the state … who reported never receiving their tests results … despite waiting for weeks or more".

Prior to the closure, A FOX6 reporter visited a Center for COVID Control Site in Milwaukee near N. 76th St. and Douglas Ave and got a rapid test. A camera recorded the testing instructions he was given on site.

"Open right there, and peel it back like a cheese stick. Take the swab out, shove it in the nostrils 5 times," a staff member told him.

"Ok, so I’m doing this to myself?" the reporter asked.

"You are. I am not doing it to you. Then, you slide it back into the wrapper and then put back in the bag. Then, in there," the staff member said, pointing to a bin.

The reporter asked how far he should push the swab back into his nostril.

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"As far as you’d like," the staff member said. "It’s gonna know. It’s gonna know you have COVID no matter how deep you go in."

Contact 6 asked the Center for COVID Control and the test manufacturer whether this was the proper protocol but did not get a response by deadline.

The Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois has alerted consumers that it’s "looking into the company" amid "numerous complaints both locally and across the country."

The BBB alert reads, "Consumers allege problems with not receiving test results, poor customer service, and requesting personally identifiable information".

The company’s rating dropped after the BBB says it failed to respond to complaints.

"The current rating is an ‘F’ grade, which is our lowest grade," said Lisa Schiller of the BBB of Wisconsin.

Kenosha County Health Officer Jen Freiheit told Contact 6 that the company has been "a difficult one to work with from the beginning."

Freiheit says that most testing providers reach out to the Kenosha County Division of Health before launching operations in the city. She says company representatives from the Center for COVID Control did not.

Kenosha County Division of Health has gotten many complaints about the drive-thru site, which operates out of a temporary trailer on 47th Avenue. Complaints include lack of results, people sitting on hold for hours, improper use of PPE (personal protective equipment), improper swabbing, and incorrect billing.

"We don’t have the authority to close them," Freiheit said. "We do not run or control these sites."

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