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CBS2 Investigation Finds Dozens Of Unregulated COVID Testing Sites Popping Up

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) - A CBS2 News investigation found dozens of unregulated COVID-19 testing sites popping up all over the Los Angeles area.

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Jan. 13, 2021 (CBSLA).

The testing sites, comprised of a table, a tent and a sign reading "Free COVID Testing" have become common on street corners, leading many people to believe they can get a quick test and avoid long lines at many county run sites.

Arsy Melkonyan went to one of these testing sites, after she said she'd seen it while driving by.

"They promised test results within 24 to 72 hours," she said.

However, she never received her test results.

"I asked what happened, did they get lost or they did not deliver. He told me I should not have high expectations because it's for free," Melkonyan told CBSLA.

CBS2's investigation found that pop-up COVID testing sites are basically unregulated, and just about anyone can be administering your test.

An online search revealed job listings for companies desperately looking for people to work COVID testing tents. One of them touted "no experience needed $25/hr + BONUSES." Another listing promised "$1,000 CASH SIGNING BONUS," and yet another one picturing bags of money, showing interested parties can make "$7 per test, $175 a day, $875 a week, $3,500 a month."

Dr. Omai Garner is Director of Point of Care Testing at UCLA. When asked how reliable the pop-up testing sites are and how much trust people should put them in, Dr. Garner said he thinks that's unknown.

"Where is that test going? Who's even doing that test once it's collected? I think that these aren't things that we know," he said.

CBS2 found that the state and federal government regulate labs that do the testing, but have no authority over sites that just collect samples.

LA County also does not regulate collection sites other than the ones they partner with. Although, they're looking at ways to tighten regulations.

In many cases, all the pop-up sites need is a business license and they're in business, sometimes taking your personal and insurance information.

"I want to know who's sticking the, you know, stick up my nose before it happens," said Jerry Flanagan with Consumer Watchdog.

Flanagan said he thinks regulations are needed.

"There needs to be oversight. It needs to be local and it needs to be state. There needs to be credentialing," he said.

Melkonyan ended up going to another site and tested positive, after wasting time waiting for results from the first testing site.

"It's scary," she said.

Experts said it may be best to stick with sites run by or sanctioned by the city or county, or go to an established urgent care, but be prepared to wait for your test results.

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