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Another Major Client Pulls COVID-19 Testing Contract With NorthShore Clinical Labs; Illinois Lawmakers Demand Regulations On Pop-Up Testing Agencies

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A Chicago-based COVID-19 testing lab that was paid more than $140 million by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now at the center of two state health department investigations.

Now, CBS 2's Chris Tye has learned another major client has pulled its contract.

The University of Nevada, Reno promotes itself as the Wolfpack. But recently, they've kicked a major medical partner out of the pack.

In a statement this week, the school says it has "terminated its contract with NorthShore Clinical Laboratories due to our institution's dissatisfaction with NorthShore's service in helping to conduct on-campus COVID-19 testing."

This is similar to the reason the City of Berwyn dropped NorthShore at the beginning of the pandemic.

NorthShore told CBS 2 Berwyn was a single instance of a dissatisfied client — citing school districts and nursing homes as happy customers.

The company, though, stopped replying to our questions about contracts, right around the time they stopped testing through third-party pop-up sites.

"They're almost like the Spirit Halloween stores, right?" said Illinois state Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago). "Like any vacant store front is a good candidate for these."

After six weeks, Cassidy herself still has no COVID test result.

"Somebody behind me in line said, 'You know, hang on, let me get my insurance card,' and they said, 'No, just mark that you're uninsured,'" Cassidy said.

This is why Cassidy and state Rep. Fred Crespo (D-Streamwood) are spearheading four bills regarding COVID-19 testing practices.

"This has to happen like yesterday," Crespo said.

The bills call on the Illinois Department of Public Health to create "standards for the timeliness of test results; methods of contacting patients; reporting; and penalties. Effective immediately."

The legislation also "requires the Department to ensure that it maintains an adequately staffed hotline to receive complaints about COVID-19 testing sites and labs."

"Here's the sad part - we have been through that before with the Illinois Department of Employment Security, where because of COVID, the number of calls were coming in and they were having issues just managing volume," Crespo said.

The earliest the bill could see action is the middle of this month. So while state inspectors dig into NorthShore Labs — and a university campus in Nevada searches for a new COVID testing vendor — the state of pop-up testing centers around here become the work of the Illinois state House.

Many members of the state House were as surprised as the rest of us at how poorly the testing centers were regulated.

"I started to make some inquiries about how they're licensed; how they're regulated, and the answer is: they're just not," Cassidy said.

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