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caption: A notice appearing on the front of the Center for Covid Control's Lower Queen Anne testing site on Friday, January 14, 2022 states that the company has closed all of its locations nationwide.
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A notice appearing on the front of the Center for Covid Control's Lower Queen Anne testing site on Friday, January 14, 2022 states that the company has closed all of its locations nationwide.
Credit: KUOW Photo

Covid testing company sued by Washington AG over 'inaccurate and deceptive' test results

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson is suing the Center for Covid Control, accusing the company of knowingly providing invalid Covid test results to patients.

Employees of the company reported they were instructed to “lie to patients on a daily basis” about delayed test results, according to Ferguson's office.

The Illinois-based company operated roughly 300 testing sites across the country, 11 of them in Washington state.

Before closing all of its locations on or around January 13, the company purported to offer walk-up rapid antigen and PCR testing, free of charge to patients.

The new lawsuit, filed in the King County Superior Court, accuses the Center for Covid Control of causing “imminent and irrevocable harm to the welfare of the people of Washington” by failing to provide valid test results, possibly contributing to the spread of Covid-19, among a myriad of other alleged violations of the Consumer Protection Act.

The lawsuit states that the company operated without a proper license at nearly all of its Washington state locations and improperly collected patients’ insurance information.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson wrote that he believed the Center for Covid Control had billed the federal government $124 million for tests for supposedly uninsured patients. Employees of the company reported being directed to falsely document that patients were uninsured, if their insurer didn’t appear on a list of compatible insurers.

The company is also accused of knowingly submitting invalid samples to a laboratory for testing.

The Attorney General’s Office also accuses the operations director for the Center for Covid Control of instructing employees to inaccurately post-dating samples collected, so they would appear more recent than they were when sent to a lab for testing. This was after a lab manager told the operations director that after three days, a test “would always result in a negative or inconclusive result,” the lawsuit states.

Additionally, the company allegedly stored tests in garbage bags, in some cases for over a week, instead of properly refrigerating them. Employees reported that the company was collecting between 8,000 to 10,000 samples per day across its sites in December 2021.

In one account outlined in the lawsuit, the company allegedly sent a patient "negative" test results, despite the patient being told by employees a minute prior that her test results had been lost. That woman later tested positive for Covid-19 at a Department of Health-operated site.

Emrys E., who asked to only be identified by first name and last initial, visited the company's testing site in Lower Queen Anne on January 5. He told KUOW that he and several coworkers waited in a line spanning several blocks for approximately three hours to get tested. Once at the front of the testing queue, things seemed amiss, he said.

"When we got to the actual building, there was a weird setup and it was a one-room office space, off the sidewalk," Emrys said. "There were two people working and there was a baby with them, crawling on the floor."

Within 10 minutes of submitting his sample for a rapid test, he received an email saying he had tested negative.

“Looking back on it, when did they have time to input my results into a system?” he said.

He also observed employees verbally tell some patients their supposed test results on the spot, he said.

Others who visited the company’s testing sites never received any results, despite advertisements that they’d get them back within 48 hours.

The Center for Covid Control came under fire earlier this month when a USA Today investigation illuminated complaints of suspicious practices at its testing sites across the country.

The company is co-owned by married couple Akbar Syed and Aleya Siyaj, who live in Saint Charles, Illinois. They face penalties of up to $12,500 per Consumer Protection Act violation in Washington state.

KUOW attempted to reach Sayed and Siyaj but did not receive a response by the time this story was published. When dialed, the phone number listed for the Center for Covid Control provides the following automated message:

“All Center for Covid Control locations nationwide will be closed until further notice. Center for Covid control is committed to providing high quality testing services while ensuring we are compliant with all regulations and achieving high levels of patient satisfaction. We are doubling down on these commitments by temporarily closing all locations in order to retrain our management and staff while rolling out new procedures to help meet the unprecedented demand for testing.

We thank you for your continued support and look forward to opening our doors to better serve the communities. We hope you all stay safe during these times. you see any covid testing conducted on these premises, please contact local authorities immediately.”

The call then automatically disconnects.