(WXYZ) — A COVID-19 testing center with sites across the country and right here in Metro Detroit is temporarily closing after a slew of complaints.
The news comes as this fourth wave of COVID cases has spiked demand for testing.
The Better Business Bureau investigated a COVID-19 testing company with pop-up sites in the United States
“The ‘Covid control center‘ present themselves as tenants in formerly vacant real estate spaces. They really come out of the woodwork,” said Melanie Duquesnel, President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Eastern Michigan and UP
Duquesnel explained that there are at least eleven “Center for Covid Control” (or CCC) sites that have opened in southeast Michigan and several hundred more across the country.
“I know for a fact [sites in] St. Louis, Oregon, South Carolina, are definitely — and Chicago — are definitely being watched very closely,” she says.
The Chicago and Northern Illinois BBB told Alicia Smith that it is ‘actively investigating an influx of multiple complaints in numerous states regarding this ‘F-rated’ business, with the company not responding to inquiries from the BBB regarding complaints – complaints such as “not receiving test results”, paying “money for expedited results but not getting results” and “not answering customer questions”, etc.
Here is their full statement:
BBB is actively investigating an influx of multiple complaints in numerous states regarding this “F-rated” company. The company did not respond to the BBB’s inquiry about the complaints.
Center for Covid Control has the lowest rating the BBB can give a company as well as the lowest rating in customer reviews. As complaints keep pouring in… Consumers allege…
A) They don’t get the test results
B) Some paid money
for accelerated results, but they don’t get results
C) The company does not respond to customers with questions or request their test results
C) They ask for a lot of personal information
D) They received incorrect test results.
So, Alicia Smith decided to check out one of the locations near Five Mile and Merriman in Livonia on Thursday, January 14.
The location was closed even though it was after 9am opening time.
Through the window, Smith could see a light on in the far back, but there was no activity inside.
It looked almost abandoned.
A large sign has been pasted inside the window reading: “‘Center for Covid Control’ – FREE COVID-19 TEST – No Appointment Required – No Insurance Needed.”
There were no chairs in the lobby – just a single social distancing sticker on the floor.
While our team was there, Julie Adams came to see the site closed.
Adams said she was a return customer who had had a decent experience both times she had been there.
She remembers that there was only one person behind the counter. This person directed her to a QR code.
“You would put in your information, upload your license, and they would have you self-administer the test, and you would get the results in 10 minutes,” Adams recalled.
Monica Ingles – owner of Sorella’s Custom Cakes next door – said the site had been down for about 4 days.
“It’s been about a month since they kind of moved in. It was kind of sketchy the whole way through,” Ingles said.
“We just arrived one morning, and there were people standing outside – I’m not kidding – in bathrobes. And they were people who worked there! Ingles called back. “Nothing about it seemed remotely professional or organized.”
The BBB visited other storefronts in Warren and Dearborn, as well as a hard-to-find fourth-floor office site in downtown Detroit at 220 W. Jefferson.
Then late Thursday afternoon, Smith received a press release from the Illinois-based company in question: “Center for COVID Control” to suspend operations for additional staff training and education” – stating that “some Center for COVID Control (or CCC) sites are experiencing high demand for testing due to the surge of the omicron variant. This unusually high patient demand has strained staff resources, as has been widely reported, at a subset of our sites, affecting our usual customer service standards and diagnostic goals.
The statement explains that the company “will temporarily suspend collection of patient samples effective Friday, January 14, and plans to reopen on Saturday, January 22.
The founder and CEO stating, in part, “we have made this difficult decision to temporarily suspend all operations until we are satisfied that all collection sites meet our high quality standards”.
The CEO went on to explain that a key factor contributing to CCC’s current challenges is the rapid spread of the omicron variant within their own ranks and the number of COVID-19 tests increasing from 8,000 a day nationwide to more. 80,000 per day.
But he also apologized for recent inconveniences with customers and a loss of trust, explaining that employee training and management improvements are aimed at refocusing staff.
The press release explained that test results collected on Thursday January 13 will be carefully processed by Friday January 14 – and the results will be provided in a timely manner.
Here is a statement from the Michigan Attorney General’s office:
We are aware of recent media reports regarding the Center for Covid Control. We have received a very small number of consumer complaints and inquiries regarding this company.
At this time, we don’t know enough about this company to comment on its practices.
We have communicated with our partners at the BBB and are urging consumers who have experiences like those described in recent reports to alert their local health department and file a complaint with our consumer protection team. As concerns about Covid testing locations can involve both public health and consumer protection, the Attorney General is committed to ensuring that priority attention is given to such complaints. However, we cannot comment on ongoing investigations.
We urge consumers to do their homework before choosing Covid testing locations. Talk to your healthcare professional or visit the MDHHS website to find approved testing sites where tests are provided at no cost. Look for companies that offer testing just like you would any other company selling a good or service – check out the BBB and other online review sources.
Consumer complaints can be filed online at the Attorney General’s website, or by calling 877-765-8388. If you see something suspicious, you can also report it here: https://www.bbb.org/scamtracker