The Center for COVID Control in Rochester and across the United States suspends testing sites

A national coronavirus testing company that has drawn criticism from customers in multiple states announced a “one-week pause on all operations” Thursday, including a location in the city of Rochester.

The pause was to take effect Friday through January 21 at all Center for COVID Control testing sites. Two states, Massachusetts and Washington, took action this week to close several of the company’s COVID testing centers in their communities.

In an email to “all site owners and managers” and obtained by USA TODAY, the company cited “increased media scrutiny of the operations of our collection sites” over the past week.

The Center for COVID Control offers COVID-19 testing from a storefront on Mount Hope Blvd. in Rochester. A sign hung outside the front door says testing is free and no insurance is required.

The company operates more than 300 locations in at least 29 states, according to the company’s website – some of them “pop-ups” lack sheds and mobile storage units.

Locations show up on Google Maps searches with minimal test site information beyond location and hours. The website claims the company is “associated with a CDC-certified and approved lab,” but does not specify which lab.

The company has been the subject of complaints and warnings about the legitimacy of its services. Dozens of people across the country contacted reporters from the USA Today Network to express their concerns about the company.

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Many said they discovered the sites by searching for nearby testing options on Google and were surprised at how the sites were run. Some said they received their test results later than promised or not at all.

Zach Zerom, 27, of Rochester, said he shouted through his car door to stop a man and his two children from entering one of the pop-up sites.

Zerom said he searched for nearby COVID-19 tests and went to the COVID control center, where he found a pop-up window with handwritten signs posted outside and two card tables and a chair. inside. Zerom said he waited more than half an hour for a test before reading reviews online.

“The whole operation seemed really dodgy,” he said. “I ended up not even taking the test because I realized it wasn’t a reputable place.”

Monroe County Public Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza said he was aware of the local Center for COVID Control’s operation and expressed his concerns during a press briefing Thursday afternoon.

“We first learned about this company in late December,” said Monroe County Public Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza. “We started hearing complaints, including that the test results were inconsistent.”

Mendoza said the state Department of Health is responsible for overseeing testing labs. This agency has been made aware of the local concerns and is investigating.

Asked if he thinks people should go to the Center for COVID Control for testing, Mendoza said, “I would prefer people go to a site affiliated with a well-known health entity, like a hospital or pharmacy. If people have questions they should call their own health care provider.”

There are online resources to help consumers find legitimate COVID-19 testing sites.

The Monroe County website has a list of county-run sites that offer free testing.

The New York State Department of Health also has a website where consumers can search for nearby locations offering COVID-19 testing, primarily located at pharmacies and healthcare facilities.

Several Rochester residents have taken to social media to express concern about the legitimacy of the Mount Hope Blvd lab. and a similar site on East Avenue operating as “Lab Elite”. Neither location appears on the state website’s list of testing locations

Residents of Chicago, Houston, Saint Paul, Minnesota and Rochester told USA TODAY they encountered issues with the sites.

The Oregon Department of Justice has opened a civil investigation into the Center for COVID Control for alleged violations of the Unfair Trade Practices Act. Officials in several other states have issued warnings about new and re-emerging COVID-19 testing scams.

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul issued a consumer alert last week about “pop-up” coronavirus testing sites. He did not specifically name the Center for COVID Control.

“It’s important for people to know that these sites are not licensed or regulated by any government agency,” Raoul said in a statement, “and should ask questions before visiting a pop-up testing location — or trying to use a state-sponsored test site.”

Includes reporting by USA Today reporter Grace Hauck

Contact staff reporter Sean Lahman at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @seanlahman.