AG Ferguson files lawsuit against Center for COVID Control over invalid and false test results

Testing centers were storing samples in trash bags, providing false negative results or sometimes no results at all

OLYMPIA — Attorney General Bob Ferguson today filed a lawsuit against the Center for COVID Control, an Illinois-based company that operated multiple testing centers in Washington state, for providing COVID-19 test results. 19 invalid, false, and retarded to Washingtonians, or sometimes for failing to provide any results. . The company’s illegal practices included storing tests in garbage bags for more than a week rather than properly refrigerating them, and backdating sample collection dates so that expired samples were still processed.

Employees reported that the company asked them to “lie to patients daily” when Washingtonians complained about their delayed results.

Ferguson’s lawsuit, filed in King County Superior Court, claims the company violated consumer protection law when it deliberately failed to provide prompt, valid and accurate results. Additionally, the company also violated the Consumer Protection Act when it made deceptive promises that it could deliver results within 48 hours. The Attorney General’s office plans to file a motion for a preliminary injunction soon to immediately stop the illegal conduct of the Center for COVID Control. The office will request a preliminary injunction hearing for the earliest available date.

“The Center for COVID Control contributed to the spread of COVID-19 when it provided false negative results,” Ferguson said. “These bogus testing centers threatened the health and safety of our communities. They must be held accountable. »

The Center for COVID Control operated about 300 testing sites nationwide. The company had at least 13 testing sites in Washington, located in Lakewood, Tacoma, University Place, Seattle, Bellevue, Auburn, Lynnwood, Everett, Port Orchard and Yakima. The company has provided COVID-19 testing to thousands of Washingtonians.

The company did not have a license to operate a business in any Washington municipality except Yakima at the time it performed COVID-19 testing. These test sites suspended all operations on or around January 13 and are still closed.

The company announced that it can provide COVID-19 test results within 15 minutes for a rapid antigen test and within 48 hours for a more accurate PCR test.

However, in reality, the company was aware that it could not actually process tests at this speed. Former employees reported that the company received between 8,000 and 10,000 tests a day and that data entry staff could not keep up. The company’s owners have refused requests to hire additional staff to meet the demand for testing.

The COVID Control Center stored week-long tests in trash bags

Employees began storing tests in trash bags and piling them in various corners of the office without any semblance of organization. Some former employees said they routinely find tests in trash bags more than a week old, never properly refrigerated and never tested by the company lab.

Test samples can only be stored for so long – a company lab manager reported that beyond three days a sample is no longer valid. The company’s operations manager instructed employees to start fake post-dating the samples to make them look newer than they actually were, and to submit them for testing anyway so that the company could potentially still charge insurance companies or the federal government for testing.

As a result, Washingtonians received false negative results, invalid results, or no results at all. A Yakima client, who never received his test result from the Center for COVID Control, reported that two of his family members received negative test results despite having severe COVID-19 symptoms the day after the test.

As the company fell behind in processing samples, it was inundated with calls about late or no results. Call wait times were sometimes up to three hours long. The Center for COVID Control asked employees to tell patients to expect results within 24 hours, even though there was no information on where the sample was or if it would be. one day tested. If a patient called multiple times to ask for their results, employees were instructed to lie and tell them their results were inconclusive and they needed to take another test, allowing the company to charge for two tests.

The Center for COVID Control reportedly billed the federal government $124 million for testing for “uninsured” patients. The company frequently marked patients as “uninsured,” even though they were insured. Employees were instructed to mark patients as “uninsured” if the patient did not provide their insurance information at the time of testing or if their insurance company was not listed on the insurance entry form. company data. As testing ramped up, the company “streamlined” its data entry form and automatically filled in “uninsured” as the default insurance for all patients.

“My team has been instructed to lie to patients on a daily basis”

Several Washington patients and former employees have filed complaints with the Attorney General’s office regarding the Center for COVID Control.

An Illinois-based employee who was responsible for a data entry team reports, “I had been uncomfortable for most of my short tenure at [Center for COVID Control], but as the trash bags full of tests piled up and my team had to lie to patients daily, I had had enough. I first asked for a demotion from my position as shift manager and, shortly after, I resigned.

A Washingtonian visited the Center for COVID Control’s Everett site for a rapid test. At the time, she had been exposed to COVID-19 and was showing symptoms. He was told that his result would be available in two hours. After five hours, a test worker told her the sample was lost and she needed to take a second one.

“Two hours after taking my second COVID-19 test, I still had not received a result from the Center for COVID Control. An employee told me that they could no longer find my sample. However, one minute after I learned that my second test was lost, I received an email from the testing site informing me that my COVID-19 test was negative.

Suspecting the negative result, she made another appointment at a Washington Department of Health testing site and received a positive result.

Trial details

Ferguson’s lawsuit asks the court to order the Center for COVID Control to:

  • Stop all of his illegal behavior including his false consumer claims and false test results
  • Pay civil fines of up to $12,500 per violation of the Consumer Protection Act, including $5,000 in increased fines for targeting vulnerable populations
  • Forfeit all profits the company has made from its unlawful conduct, in addition to costs and attorneys’ fees

Assistant Attorneys General Daniel Davies and Will O’Connor are leading the case.

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The Washington Attorney General serves the people and the state of Washington. As the largest law firm in the state, the Attorney General’s Office provides legal representation to every state agency, board, and commission in Washington. In addition, the Board serves the public directly by enforcing consumer protection, civil rights and environmental protection laws. The Bureau also prosecutes elder abuse, Medicaid fraud, and handles sexually violent predator cases in 38 of Washington’s 39 counties. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.

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Brionna Aho, director of communications, (360) 753-2727; [email protected]

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