CHICAGO (CBS) -- Dozens of COVID-19 testing sites in the Chicago area are closed this week, as state investigators look into complaints about the conditions inside and confusion over results.
As CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey reported Monday, patients who frequented such sites are now left with lots of questions.
"The fact that it's in a trailer is an obvious red flag," said Jon Bernhardt, a customer at a Center for Covid Control testing site. "I'd say the fact that it appeared overnight is another red flag."
Bernhardt, a Lincoln Park resident, said he wishes he had trusted his gut.
He said he got tested at the Center for Covid Control trailer site at Lincoln and Seminary avenues no fewer than 20 times since it opened - and only stopped coming recently after requesting a take-home test:
"When I got home, I realized it was used - so I brought it back to him," Bernhardt said. "I would say he was not nearly as alarmed as he should have been. It was more of a casual apology than it was any type of real concern."
After a recent positive test at home, Bernhardt said he came to the trailer days in a row and got five negative results - which made him feel confident enough to travel to Florida to visit family. But then, the Center for Covid Control announced they were shutting down operations this week and retraining management and staff after a flood of complaints at sites across our area.
"It's making me second-guess everything now," Bernhardt said. "So now, I can't just blindly trust a place to walk in."
We've heard from patients and former employees alike. Bravette Fleet started working at the Center for Covid Control COVID-19 testing site located in a Hyde Park condo building in early November.
"I don't know if you see how dirty this floor is. There's no mop," Fleet said. "This is where all of the biohazard waste is going into this trash can. It doesn't make sense for us to have trash cans with no lid on it."
The customers and former staffers complained out about working conditions and chaos inside the testing pop-ups.
"This place was so convenient. I knew the people that worked here. I trusted them," Bernhardt said, "and so I was overlooking these red flags."
Many patients like Bernhardt have been left scrambling to find a new testing center, and questioning the results that they already got.
"People should be doing their homework before they go to a testing site - not to blindly trust. Just because you see a long line of people doesn't mean that they're all getting valid tests," Bernhardt said. "So I would say do you research and make sure the test is credible."
We did speak with a man Monday afternoon who identified himself as the landlord of the Lincoln Park property where the Center for Covid Control testing trailer is located. He said he was very troubled by the complaints he had heard and will not be renewing this testing site's release at the end of the month.
We had no luck getting in touch with management at the testing location.
Right now, the Lincoln Park site and other Center for Covid Control sites are slated to reopen on Saturday – as the sign on the door still indicates.
The company blamed an exponential spike in the need for testing around the holidays for the complaints that they've gotten. They're now "re-committing to exceptional customer service."
Federal investigators are also looking into the Center for Covid Control's primary lab, Doctors Clinical Lab. A spokesperson for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services confirmed it is looking into complaints from November and December at multiple testing sites and the main lab.
"We take seriously any allegations of fraud or misbehavior by COVID-19 testing sites. CMS's Center for Clinical Standards and Quality investigates these kinds of complaints and is aware of several alleged instances of misconduct by this company's labs. We know that people want to feel confident that the testing sites they visit are reputable and the results they receive are accurate," said Dr. Lee Fleisher, Chief Medical Officer and Director of the Center for Clinical Standards and Quality at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. "To be clear – the Center for COVID Control is not a federal agency. CMS is actively investigating numerous complaints about multiple laboratories and testing sites associated with this private company. It is our understanding that the Center for COVID Control voluntarily suspended their operations through January 22. CMS continues our investigations and will take compliance and enforcement actions as appropriate."
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