W MI clients question practices as COVID-19 testing company shuts down

Coronavirus

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Josh Coulter got the swab so many of us are now familiar with at a pop-up testing center along 28th Street in Grand Rapids just before Thanksgiving.

At the time, the testing agency was operating in the parking lot. Now, it has moved into a storefront.

“They said, ‘We’re going to test you with a PCR test and we’re going to test you with a rapid test,'” Coulter said.

He tested negative.

But as stories from around the country about Center for Covid Control’s operation — from a website that’s difficult to navigate to test results not being delivered — started to emerge, he started to question his own test.

Coulter claimed the testing employee wasn’t wearing a mask. He said he got the result of his antigen rapid test within minutes. Days later, when his PCR results came back, the heading on the reports listed it as an antigen test.

“With the exact same time stamps. Even said antigen test on it — twice. It didn’t switch anything around,” Coulter said.

Illinois-based Center for Covid Control has landed an F rating with the Better Business Bureau for not responding to complaints filed with the BBB.

The manager of the 28th Street location denied he’s running bad testing site. Austin Clark said all employees wear masks when dealing with clients. He said they are successfully testing about 300 people per day with few complaints.

On Thursday, the Center for Covid Control announced it would not be offering tests Friday through Jan. 22 at any of its locations anywhere in the country, citing high demand caused by the omicron surge and a need to provide further staff training.

“Regrettably, due to our rapid growth and the unprecedented demand for testing, we haven’t been able to meet all our commitments,” Center for Covid Control founder Aleya Siyaj said in a statement. “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.”

“We’re still trying to determine if this was a really poorly run business or if these people have ulterior motives. And we don’t know yet because we don’t know enough about them,” said Kate Grevious of the BBB Serving West Michigan. “Since it has sparked across the country and we’ve started to see all of these complaints trickle in from multiple states, it has started to raise some red flags that there’s more to this and that we just need to look deeper.”

That’s the challenge for the BBB and other watchdog groups. Elsewhere in the country, Center for Covid Control has generated investigations by state agencies. Here in West Michigan, the BBB has received four complaints about Covid Control’s local storefronts, ranging from claims that clients didn’t receive their test results to that something just didn’t feel right.

“These people didn’t ask questions. They felt something was off, but they didn’t listen to their gut. And now they’re nervous. Unfortunately, it’s too early for us to determine if their gut was right or not,” Grevious said.

She said the debate over the company’s business practices has generated an even bigger worry.

“We fear that people may be scared to get tested anywhere. And we don’t want to drag other, legitimate testing centers through the mud,” she said.

You can find a trusted testing site through the state health department’s website or by reaching out to your local county health department. You can also check out testing companies on the BBB’s website.

The Michigan Attorney General’s Office says it is aware of the concerns with Center for Covid Control. It has received a small number of complaints, but as of Thursday did not have have enough information to comment about the company’s business practices.

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