ST. LOUIS — A COVID-19 testing firm with locations in the St. Louis area is at the center of multiple investigations and complaints.

The Center of COVID Control is a private company based in Chicago and has about 300 sites across the country, including three sites in St. Louis City and two in the county. People have complained about the site’s testing protocols over the past few weeks, flagging the attention of the Better Business Bureau and Attorneys Generals’ Offices.

Amid all of the controversy, the company announced in a press release Thursday that it has paused all operations across the county to hire more staff to handle a rapid demand in testing. 

“Center for Covid Control is committed to serving our patients in the safest, most accurate, and most
compliant manner. Regrettably, due to our rapid growth and the unprecedented recent demand for testing,
we haven’t been able to meet all our commitments,” said Center of COVID Control founder and CEO Aleya Siyaj. “We’ve made this difficult decision to temporarily pause all operations until we are confident that all
collection sites are meeting our high standards for quality.”

Liz Gerard, who tested at the Central West End site in December, said she never got her results.

“When I pulled up at the site, I thought it was a bit sketchy,” she said.

Gerard said she’s concerned her information could be in the wrong hands.

“I waited and heard nothing back,” she said of his missing results. “I’m definitely going to watch my credit report and make sure there are no accounts open in my name for any suspicious activity.”

Kristen Rupel tested at the site last week and got her results in less than 20 minutes after being tested and questions the test’s validity.

“When I tested there, the lady was doing two tests at a time on people,” said Kristen Rupel. “I’m just really upset and devastated because I told so many people that it was a good resource to get a COVID test.”

FOX 2 found out the company sends their rapid tests to a lab called “Doctors Clinical Laboratories.” That lab takes each patient’s information and sends the test results. The lab is certified online under the U.S. government through the S&C’s Quality, Certification, and Oversight Reports (QCOR).

Missouri and Illinois’ health departments said they don’t regulate private testing businesses like the Center for COVID Control but do monitor and investigate testing labs.

Illinois Health Department spokeswoman Melaney Arnold sent this statement to FOX 2:

“IDPH regulates laboratories, not private businesses that provide COVID-19 testing, and conducts an investigation on laboratory complaints. Each testing location should be affiliated with a laboratory. We are aware of complaints about the Center for COVID Control, which appears to have locations across the country. We have looked into labs associated with the Center for COVID Control, but are not able to provide additional information at this time.

IDPH has a list of testing locations on its website, https://dph.illinois.gov/covid19/testing.html, which includes free testing at 10 State community-based testing sites and SHIELD Illinois testing locations. However, the list is a resource and not an endorsement of locations other than the State community-based testing sites and SHIELD Illinois testing locations. If patients believe there may be fraud or other criminal activity related to testing locations they should contact the Illinois Attorney General’s Consumer Protect Division.”

Missouri Health Department spokeswoman Lisa Cox also sent a statement:

“We have received complaints from some local public health agencies and are looking into the organization now.

Testing sites are not required to get approval from DHSS to set up. Our state-operated testing sites are operated by contracted vendors who have to meet strict criteria. Before this week, we have not been familiar with the organization you’ve mentioned. Laboratories (if used) should be CLIA certified and those collecting specimens should be using FDA authorized tests (all federal regulations).

We would advise individuals to access testing site information from DHSS, their local public health agency or local pharmacy or health care provider. If it’s another type of organization hosting a legitimate testing event, they are likely partnered with one of these state or local providers. A social security number should not be required for a COVID testing event, so being asked for this information should be considered a red flag.”

The Illinois attorney general is now investigating the company, along with Oregon’s Department of Justice. Illinois Attorney General spokeswoman Annie Thompson sent this statement: “As a result of complaints from residents as well as reported problems at pop-up testing locations connected to the Center for COVID Control, we have opened an investigation. We encourage individuals to report experiencing problems with the Center for COVID Control or other pop-up COVID-19 testing locations to file complaints on our website.”

The Missouri Attorney General’s Office has also received complaints.

The Saint Louis Department of Health updated its list of testing sites. You can see them by clicking here.

FOX 2 is still waiting for a response from the Center for Covid Control. The administrator of the Ballpark Village testing location said he has closed the location as well as his other locations in Chesterfield and in the Central West End.

He said he is currently looking for another vendor to do the testing and hopes to have the sites up and running by next week.