It’s been a tough week for COVID pop-up testing companies as state and federal investigations heat up on some of its key players. An industry that has arisen quickly can come to an equally rapid end.
Center for COVID Control, the Rolling Meadows-based testing company that operated hundreds of testing sites and is now the source of numerous federal and state investigations, could close.
Company owners told employees during a video conference Thursday night, according to a report from Block Club Chicago.
A statement to NBC 5 Responds didn’t go that far, saying it will suspend operations indefinitely.
A CCC spokesperson said Center for Covid Control founder Aleya Siyaj “told site operators that CCC’s co-founders” are diverting our attention from operating the marketing and management company. collection of tests to respond to and cooperate with legal investigations, and to clear our good names.'”
“With field collection sites no longer affiliated with CCC, most headquarters operations will also be halted for the foreseeable future,” the spokesperson said. “Unfortunately, 150 positions in Chicago will no longer be needed after February 4, resulting in layoffs of employees. wish them the best.'”
The news comes after state authorities confirmed this week that two other Illinois-based labs, O’Hare Clinical Lab and Northshore Clinical Lab, are being investigated after numerous consumer complaints.
Each company received hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars, according to CDC data.
With so much money at stake, a question on many minds, including the feds, how did this mess get so big?
“It was chaos…it was the Wild West.“
Dr William Rasmussen said he didn’t give much thought at first when he learned new neighbors were moving in last October, next to his 16-year-old Garfield Ridge chiropractic practice.
Then the crowds started to appear.
These neighbors? COVID Control Center (CCC).
“It was chaos. I mean, it was a Wild West,” Rasmussen said.
The new CCC testing site was next to Rasmussen’s office, sharing the same lobby and air as his patients. In his eyes, Rasmussen said there was very little organization, with safety protocols flouted.
“People were queuing outside the door,” Rasmussen said. “They were at the clinic, and it was intolerable.”
The footage Rasmussen captured on his lobby and phone security cameras tell the story: overcrowding, no social distancing, people filling out paperwork wherever they could find a spot.
In some cases, he said CCC staff performed swab tests on patients in the common hall.
“To guess, [there were] probably around 200 [people] in the morning and another 200 in the afternoon,” he explained. “And there will be a percentage of those people who test positive. And if they’re sitting in the reception room, then you’re sitting with a loaded gun.”
Rasmussen said some of his patients have started canceling their appointments to avoid the growing crowds.
NBC 5 Responds could not reach the CCC test site manager for comment. The building owner said he had tried to resolve the situation as best he could for the two tenants, but did not provide further comment.
Nationwide company roadmap
It’s complaints like these that have brought the CCC onto the radar of state and federal investigators, including an active investigation by the FBI’s Office of Inspector General and Health and Human Services, as well as several state attorney general offices.
FBI agents confirmed serving a search warrant at CCC’s main headquarters in Rolling Meadows last weekend.
A CCC spokesperson said it is “fully cooperating with all government investigations.”
The FBI raided the headquarters of a suburban Chicago-based COVID-19 testing company at the center of a state investigation. Reporting by Lisa Parker of NBC’s 5 Responds.
Records show the company’s owners, husband and wife team Aleya Siyaj and Akbar ‘Ali’ Syed, grew a testing empire that spanned 22 states with more than 300 locations within a year.
So how did the testing company grow so quickly? A document obtained by NBC 5 Responds may provide some insight.
In part, the company had a number of independent agreements with “collection site managers,” according to previous reports from NBC 5, and an internal onboarding document for CCC, obtained by NBC 5 Responds.
The document was written for anyone “interested in opening a COVID-19 collection and transport site” and appears to be a roadmap of how to “get started”, including how to find a location that doesn’t. is not too close to the company’s other collection sites. “to avoid conflict.”
In its embed, the company says it’s best for site managers to get leases on a monthly basis, in case “funding is withdrawn by the government.”
Funding, as in CCC’s over $150 million main laboratory, Doctors Clinical Laboratory (DCL), has already been received from the federal government to date.
CCC gets a piece of that, a CCC spokesperson confirmed, through a “management services agreement” between CCC and DCL.
The company onboarding document was provided to NBC 5 Responds by a source who wished to remain anonymous. NBC 5 verified that the document was sent from a CCC email address to a potential site manager.
Although the document refers to a separate “pager” with details on supplies, the onboarding instructions do not contain any safety guidelines or details on finding locations that allow for social distancing practices. It provides contact information for the company’s onboarding representative.
NBC 5 repeatedly responds via email to CCC’s questions about the document, but the company has not responded.
Previously, the company attributed its challenges to the sudden increase in omicron infections last winter. A business owner told NBC 5 that the business had gone from testing “8,000 people a day to 80,000.”
The company’s onboarding document states that “it is the responsibility of the site manager to obtain all necessary permits and licenses from the town hall.” NBC Bay Area found at least one testing location in Mountain View, Calif., which city officials said was unauthorized.
Here in Chicago, testing sites don’t require local licenses, according to the city’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP).
Rasmussen told NBC 5 that he tried, multiple times, to contact city, county, state and federal officials about the CCC testing site next to his office, but no one couldn’t help him.
While COVID-19 testing labs must have federal certification, collection sites are unregulated, according to Illinois state officials.
“Everyone kept telling me it wasn’t us. We don’t regulate them,” Rasmussen said, adding that he felt testing sites “needed accreditation.”
“Federal authorities and state authorities [need to] step in and write the law right away,” Rasmussen said.