CA picks Bay Area-based tech company for new COVID-19 testing contract

Stephanie Sierra Image
Saturday, April 30, 2022
CA picks local tech company for new COVID testing contract
California picks Burlingame-based tech company Color Health for new COVID-19 testing contract.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The state is processing a contract with a Burlingame-based tech company Color Health to facilitate COVID testing across California.

This comes as the California Department of Public Health is set to terminate its $1.7 billion contract with PerkinElmer -- a company that partnered with the state to operate Valencia Branch Lab. The troubled lab once touted by Gov. Gavin Newsom as being a game-changer during the pandemic failed to meet standards, according to an inspection report released from CDPH last November. The report detailed major deficiencies like invalid COVID tests, unprocessed patient samples, and inaccurate results dating back a year ago.

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COVID cases throughout the Bay Area have been increasing for the past two weeks with the majority of the region in the red.

Six months following that report, the ABC7 News I-Team confirmed Color Health is in line to take over a new role to provide COVID-19 testing - but it will be different.

"The state will continue to offer testing capacity to local health jurisdictions in the same manner that it has prior to the Valencia Branch Lab closure," CDPH wrote in a statement released to the I-Team. "The only change will be PCR testing capacity will be provided through a network of partners rather than the state's Valencia Branch lab."

According to the state, Color Health's contract will be posted in the next two weeks.

"I think it's critical we have transparency around it, so we don't have a situation like the previous one occur again," said Dr. Mike Wasserman, who sat on the state's vaccine advisory committee and regularly advised the state. "If we don't know what the vendors are held to in terms of outcomes, then I think we risk going down the same path we went down before."

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As COVID-19 infections grow across the state, all eyes are on our wastewater, including the Bay Area, where COVID cases have been increasing rapidly.

CDPH told the I-Team there will be no change to the consumer experience - including no change to cost or who can access the state's testing services. According to an I-Team analysis of public records, PerkinElmer was charging around $55 per PCR COVID test - not the $30 that was originally promised. Last year, the I-Team profiled Bay Area-based testing company Summer Bio - only charging $10 per PCR COVID test and reported faster turnaround times in 2021.

It's unclear how much Color Health will be charging per test, the I-Team has reached out to the company for further comment.

"If we are going to effectively address COVID going forward, we need testing that has rapid turnaround," Wasserman said.

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