COVID testing company suspends operations in Washington while under investigation

In the second week of December, Lacey Wiśniewska found herself in a contemporary dilemma: she was having trouble finding a COVID test.

That’s how she found out about ‘Center for Covid Control,’ also known as CCC. The company operates more than 300 free testing sites nationwide, according to CCC’s website.

“I went to their Aloha Street location. It’s just a couple blocks away from my work,” Wiśniewska said. “I get there, there’s just a little code on the door and you scan it. You fill in all the typical questions you would typically fill in, but then they have you upload your driver’s license and your insurance photos. (That) was little interesting for me, but I’m thinking they’re a clinic, so of course they need that information.”

With an immediate need of a test, Wiśniewska said she remained hopeful throughout the process.

Her feelings quickly changed during her test, she said. According to Wiśniewska, workers (who she assumed were nurses) weren’t wearing masks.

“(Another) guy giving me my test was wearing just like a hoodie, jeans and sneakers,” she said. “And his mask (was) not on his nose half the time.”

Wiśniewska walked out feeling wary, but relieved she was able to find a COVID test.

When we spoke to Wiśniewska on January 13, she was still waiting for her results.

Concerns regarding CCC, which is based in Illinois, were growing across the country. The Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois said it was investigating CCC’s business practices.

“The company has been unresponsive to the BBB regarding the resolution of these complaints,” BBB of Chicago and Northern Illinois stated. “Consumers allege problems with not receiving test results, poor customer service and requesting personally identifiable information (driver’s license, insurance, etc.)”

Jessica Price was watching this all from her Seattle-area home. She never tested at a CCC site, but was concerned people would sign up for something they didn’t expect.

“It just really bothered me. It’s such an incredible violation of trust,” Price said. “I just kept thinking: if I got a negative test result that I trusted, and then I went, and was around family members who were too young to get the vaccine or some of my friends who are immunocompromised, and I gave them COVID? That’s a sort-of moral injury where maybe you can get your money back or your insurance company probably can get their money back, but I don’t know how you heal that moral injury. I just think that it needs to be prevented by any means that we have.”

In Price’s case, she had Twitter. She tweeted a thread drawing attention to CCC’s testing sites in Washington state, which went viral.

One of the many people who saw her tweets was Jim Kopriva with the city of Lakewood. He first learned about CCC on Reddit, then stumbled upon Price’s tweets and other social media posts regarding the company.

He also found out that CCC was running a testing site in Lakewood on Bridgeport Way South-West.

“We stopped by first thing (Wednesday) morning and found out they were operating without a business license,” Kopriva said. “Given the scope of (the personal information) being collected and also the sensitivity of this important testing when it’s most needed - when you don’t have a $73 business license for the state, that set off some red flags for the city.”

The city of Lakewood issued a “Stop-Work Order” to the testing site on Wednesday.

“A stop-work order is how we intervene in a lot of issues that residents are concerned about: shady businesses, identify theft and even car-part theft,” Kopriva said.

Kopriva said workers at the Lakewood testing site were cooperative and closed immediately.

“The business hasn’t been cited with anything beyond unlicensed operation, so far. We have notified other jurisdictions of the potential for other issues,” Kopriva said, adding that the city has contacted Washington’s State Department of Health, the Washington State Attorney General’s Office and the FBI.

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office has received two consumer complaints regarding CCC testing sites, according to spokesperson Brionna Aho. Per policy, the agency does not comment on ongoing investigations, including whether or not they exist.

In a statement to KIRO 7, Attorney General Bob Ferguson said, “People should use reliable sources when seeking out COVID testing. Go the Department of Health or your county public health office for more information.”

On Thursday, CCC announced it was temporarily halting operations at all of its locations nationwide. The company stated high testing demand combined with staffing shortages were the crux of their issues.

“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,” CCC Founder and CEO Aleya Siyaj stated.

CCC also said it plans to reopen its testing sites on January 22. The company did not address concerns regarding personal information or privacy.

“If you expect to operate in Lakewood and in the United States, you’re going to operate pursuant to the laws that exist,” Kopriva said.

Click here to find Washington’s Department of Health list of approved COVID testing sites.