Public alert: Get tested if you have COVID-19 symptoms or exposure, but avoid unusual testing operations
Public Health – Seattle & King County
Recently, Public Health – Seattle & King County became aware of a small number of unusual COVID testing operations in King County that the public should avoid. Their practices raise several concerns, including providing potentially inaccurate results.
Through public reports and Public Health staff observations, portable testing operations have been spotted in several Seattle locations, including Green Lake Park, Gas Works Park, Ballard and Capitol Hill. In Auburn, Public Health has received a report of a door-to-door operation.
Everyone should be aware that these testing operations found in Seattle and Auburn are not supported or endorsed by Public Health – Seattle & King County or the Washington State Department of Health (DOH). Neither health department goes door-to-door to solicit testing without an appointment with people who live there.
If you have received a COVID test from an operation with these concerning practices, the results may not be accurate, and you should consider getting retested, especially if you were known to be exposed or had symptoms. Public Health recommends reputable testing operations, starting with your regular healthcare provider. Many additional options are listed on the Public Health website.
Reputable COVID-19 testing options are widely available across King County, which provide free testing with rapid and highly accurate results. With COVID-19 currently spreading at high rates in King County, getting tested is as important as ever. It helps people get early treatment for illness and supports overall strategies to control the pandemic.
“COVID-19 testing remains essential, and people who have symptoms or who have been exposed should get tested promptly. This is important to both identify illness early so that people can get the care that they need and to prevent spread to family, friends and others,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, Health Officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County. “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.”
Details about concerning testing operations
In Seattle, testing tables have been seen at Green Lake Park, Gas Works Park, in Ballard and on Capitol Hill. The following concerning practices were observed by Public Health staff:
- Testing staff are not using appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect customers. At a testing operation following public health recommendations, you will see staff wearing masks, face shields and gloves. People will be in line at least six feet apart.
- Inappropriate PPE use can cause potential contamination in the testing process and inaccurate results.
- Personal information collected from individuals is held insecurely.
- Testing staff falsely claimed to be “with public health.”
- Tests are promoted as free (on signs in large red letters), but paperwork fine print indicates that people could potentially be billed.
The Seattle locations are part of the same business, Community Wellness America (CWA). The California-based laboratory CWA uses to process their 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, raising concerns that CWA may not be properly processing test specimens.
In Auburn, Public Health received a complaint of two people going door-to-door promoting their testing services at a person’s home. They falsely represented themselves as being sent by the health department and the Governor. They also claimed they were nurses but did not show ID when asked. Public Health has not confirmed who the Auburn testers mentioned in the complaint are associated with. 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 – Seattle & King County has directly communicated concerns about the questionable testing practices with CWA. Public Health does not have local regulatory authority over these testing operations. Based on these concerns, formal complaints have been made by Public Health to DOH and the Consumer Division of the Washington State Attorney General’s Office, who are looking into whether they have jurisdiction over the matter.
If you believe that you are a victim of health care fraud, you can report it to the following agencies: