Potentially illegal COVID-19 test sites in SF under investigation by city attorney

'These operations were not able to produce the valid up-to-date licenses that are required under federal law,' the attorney said.
SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The San Francisco City Attorney's Office launched an investigation into a testing company suspected of operating illegally.

Complaints from city employees have been raised about Community Wellness America, a COVID testing company that had pop-up test sites set up across the city-including Golden Gate Park and Dolores Park.

"Incredibly troubling," said San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu. "These operations were not able to produce the valid up-to-date licenses that are required under federal law."

San Francisco County Health Officials confirmed to ABC7 private COVID testing operations are required to be licensed through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. According to CMS, the CLIA license ensures proper standards for diagnostic testing are met.

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Community Wellness America test sites were previously flagged by Marin County Public Health in August for operating without required permits.

According to health officials, additional complaints from the public revolved around questionable PPE use and not following best practices as compared to other test providers.

The ABC7 News I-Team reached out to Community Wellness America for further comment, but have yet to hear back.

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"We know demand for testing is high and we are taking the necessary steps to address the situation and looking into the appropriate enforcement measures," the San Francisco Dept. of Public Health said in a statement.

The health department confirmed reports of other unauthorized test sites are popping up across the city and county.

On December 31, 2021 the I-Team was notified of a pop-up COVID test site operating outside the 16th St. BART station in San Francisco's Mission District. At first glance, it looked like a convenient way to get a free COVID-19 test.

"We are doing COVID testing, the PCR ones," said Joseph Noble, a volunteer working at the site. "These are free tests, anyone can come and get one."

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Noble told the I-Team he works Crestview Clinical Laboratories.

"We are subcontracted out with them," he said.

ABC7 I-Team reporter Stephanie Sierra tried verifying that, but in an email the company denied any affiliation to Noble and said he is "misrepresenting himself."

BART also denied the testing pop-up site was cleared to be on their property. Yet, that wasn't the only issue that raised eyebrows.

In order to get tested, people needed to fill out a form requiring a name, address, phone number, birthday and email address.

"Does that raise red flags to you?" Sierra asked.

"It raises big red flags, in fact it raises a big red banner," said Jamie Court, the President of Consumer Watchdog.

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Court has been tracking cases of unauthorized COVID testing sites on the east coast. He says some of these 'alleged contractors' even required people to give out their social security to qualify for a COVID test.

"A lot of these so-called contractors don't event have labs they work with," said Court. "They take a specimen or proportion to take a specimen, but what they're really after is their private information and often times these tests are never performed."

The I-Team confirmed Community Wellness America does send specimens to Crestview Clinical Labs for testing. The San Francisco City Attorney's Office is currently investigating the relationship between the two companies.

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