San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu on Friday announced the results of a two-month-long investigation into “rogue” COVID-19 testing sites after his office received some 100 complaints about them.
According to Chiu, in January — as the omicron variant was contributing to a rise in COVID-19 cases both locally and nationwide — his office learned of potentially unauthorized sites performing COVID-19 tests in the city.
Between Chiu’s office, the city’s 311 Customer Service Center, the San Francisco Department of Public Health, and the Board of Supervisors, about 100 complaints were received.
The complaints prompted an investigation at the sites that determined a handful were out operating without compliance from city officials and resulted in their closure. Some sites, however, were only found to be in violation of technical policies, such as sidewalk permits issued by the city’s Department of Public Works, Chiu said.
The investigation resulted in a new health order being issued by the city’s Department of Public Health on Jan. 25, setting health, safety, and consumer privacy standards for testing sites.
“The public can rest assured that COVID testing in San Francisco is safe and legitimate,” Chiu said in a statement. “After a thorough and diligent investigation, we were able to weed out the bad actors and ensure that reliable, accurate COVID tests are available to those who need it.”
Although the investigation into most of the sites has wrapped up, Chiu’s office is continuing to look into one testing operator, Community Wellness America Inc., accused of operating unlawfully at two pop-up tent locations in the city — one at Golden Gate Park and another at Dolores Park.
Back in January, Chiu’s office issued subpoenas for the company’s records, which CWA has yet to comply with.
According to Chiu, his office is seeking to determine whether CWA staff is adequately trained, whether CWA is working with a certified laboratory, and what exactly was done with samples and private information from patients.
As a result of the noncompliance, on Thursday, Chiu’s office filed a motion in San Francisco Superior Court seeking a court order for CWA to comply with the records request.
In the complaint, Chiu’s office alleged CWA operated in the city “without any regard for local permit requirements and under an expired and possibly fraudulent lab license.”
In addition, the complaint alleged, “public health and other local authorities in Washington, Illinois, and Oregon warned members of the public against taking tests at CWA locations due to the company’s lack of credentials and questionable practices, including asking for social security numbers.”
Officials with CWA did not respond to a request for comment.
San Franciscans in need of a COVID-19 test are encouraged to contact their health care provider before then seeking out SFDPH testing sites. For a list of SFDPH authorized sites, visit www.sf.gov/gettested.
Residents who suspect a site is operating unlawfully should call 311.