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3 'Center For COVID Control' Testing Sites Shut Down Due To Lack Of Clinical Lab Licenses

BOSTON (CBS) -- Three Center for COVID Control testing sites across Massachusetts have been forced to shut down immediately because the state says they do not have proper licenses. The locations in Needham, Worcester, and North Dartmouth were delivered cease and desist letters by the state on Thursday.

The Massachusetts Department of Health, Attorney General Maura Healey, and local boards of health say they all received complains from people who went to the private COVID testing site but never got their results.

Barry Pollack, who went to get tested in Needham before Christmas, says he has waited several weeks to get his results back.

"They were not remotely prepared to be in this business, based on what I experienced," said Pollack.

The sites had been providing free COVID tests, but the Department of Health says the company did not have a clinical lab license. The company now says they will be pausing testing at all of their locations with plans to reopen on Jan. 22. But their re-opening will have to be approved by the state's DPH.

Inspectors made site visits to the testing locations on Wednesday, and found it was performing tests without state approval.

Needham Health Director Timothy McDonald told the I-Team that he was alerted to issues with the site in December.

"The Center for COVID Control is entitled to full airing of the facts, but the idea that an organization might be not on the up and up, or providing services in a sub-standard manner on something as important as COVID results or whether someone is COVID's disappointing," said McDonald.

While the company didn't violate any town ordinances, McDonald did notify the Attorney General and the DPH about the complaints.

In Worcester, when inspectors showed up to shut down the COVID testing site, they say the door was unlocked and nobody was inside.

"It certainly didn't look like anything that I'd want to go in," said Worcester Commissioner of Inspections Christopher Spencer. "It was just very, I wouldn't say dirty, I think it just didn't look like there was a lot of protocols in place."

In a statement, the company said, "The 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."

The sites have been known to be very busy, and people who rely on them said they worry about where they'll get tested now.

"They don't have any at-home COVID tests, so it is pretty frustrating. And then when you're trying to book some, they're booked out for weeks," said Celeste Morataya of Worcester.

The shutdown could put pressure on other already crowed sites in Worcester like the Mercantile Center, but city officials say it's better to have fewer options than potentially unsafe ones.

"People are going to go somewhere else," Spencer said. "But the reality is that most of the other testing sites are much better equipped in terms to handle this traffic, parking, crowd control, flow and things like that."

The Center for COVID Control is now also responding to inquiries from several public health and regulatory agencies. It says will process the samples it has and provide the results to those waiting.

They are also under investigation in several other states, including Florida, where some reported getting notified with their test results before actually getting the test.

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