King County health officials: People should avoid ‘unusual’ COVID-19 testing operations

SEATTLE — King County health officials are warning the public to avoid “unusual” COVID-19 testing setups.

Public Health – Seattle & King County officials said there have been public reports and staff observations of portable testing operations at a number of Seattle parks.

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People offering testing were also spotted sitting at a fold-up table on a Capitol Hill street corner.

Though it was reminiscent of a neighborhood lemonade stand, the street corner test operation had a sign reading “No appointment needed, no insurance needed, no problem.”

But public health staff said that the fine print on paperwork says you could be billed.

Even more concerning was that staff said they saw workers not using appropriate personal protective equipment to protect customers, which could lead to sample contamination and inaccurate results.

Other concerns were that personal information collected from customers was not held securely, and that testing staff falsely claimed to be “with public health.”

So far in Seattle, such portable test sites have been spotted at Green Lake Park, Gas Works Park, in Ballard and on Capitol Hill.

According to Public Health – Seattle & King County, all the Seattle popups are operated by Community Wellness America.

The CEO of the San Diego-based company says all of its workers are qualified with proper training, but county health officials said the laboratory the company uses to process its tests has sent no positive results to either Public Health – Seattle & King County or the Washington State Department of Health after several weeks of operation in King County. This has raised concerns that CWA may not be properly processing test specimens, county health officials said.

In Auburn, there was a complaint of two people going door-to-door promoting testing services. Public Health – Seattle & King County officials said they falsely claimed they were sent by the health department and the governor. They also said they were nurses but did not show identification when asked.

“A representative from CWA told the health department that door-to-door testing is being considered as part of their strategy, but did not confirm that the Auburn testers work for CWA,” Public Health said in a post about unusual testing.

Health officials said they want the public to be aware that the testing operations found in Auburn and Seattle are not supported or endorsed by King County or state health departments, and recommended getting tested at a reputable operation such as those listed on the Public Health website or your regular health care provider.

“We have many free testing options in King County that provide reliable results. People need to be aware of unusual testing offers that may not be trustworthy,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, Health Officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County.

Public Health said because the results from such operations may not be accurate, anyone who received a COVID-19 test from one should consider getting retested.

Based on their concerns about questionable testing practices by CWA, Public Health officials said they have made formal complaints to the state Department of Health and the Consumer Division of the Washington State Attorney General’s Office.

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