Finding a COVID-19 test in a short time can be challenging. WINK News met a mom and dad who, while on the hunt for a test, came upon a test site at a Bonita Springs strip mall. They stopped, got in line, and registered for a test, but they got an email saying they were negative before they took it.
WINK News looked into the test site and found out the company that runs this site is racking up complaints, not just in Southwest Florida but nearly everywhere.
Erin Kates is a wife, a mom, and COVID positive. She knows that now but didn’t know it when she got in line for a test.
Erin, her husband Doug, and their three kids searched for a test when they saw signs along US-41 in Bonita Springs.
“The moment you got in there was just kind of like almost like a, like an election. Free COVID testing.”
While in line, they were told to grab a doctor’s clinical lab card, scan the QR code and enter their names, address, a picture of their driver’s license, and all of their personal insurance information.
“When we went to Centurylink, they didn’t need all that information,” said Erin Kates.
But the Kates filled out the card anyway.
While they were in line waiting for a test, they got a notification that their results were ready. Results for a test they were still in line to take.
Erin Kates said, “We got an email for each of us all, all five of us, both of us and our and our three kids saying that our rapid test came back negative.”
The Kates said other people in line got the same message.
Erin and Doug didn’t like that one bit. “So I confronted the man. I asked him what was how this happened?”
The Kates then emailed WINK News about what happened.
When trying to call the Center for COVID Control, the organization that sent Erin and Doug the notification that their tests came back negative, the line said, “You are caller number 121.”
The message on the phone said the wait time was five minutes, then 6 minutes, then 8 minutes.
WINK News hung up after 40 minutes of waiting.
The next avenue of investigation was the card the Kates filled out.
Two websites were found when looking up Doctors Clinical Lab; one ending in ‘.net,’ the other ending in ‘.com.’
WINK News called the ‘.net’ number first. A spokesperson from the Miami-based company said, “we are in no way associated with doctorsclinicallab.com. We have no idea who they are.”
An official-looking website popped up with a peculiar message when looking for a number for the ‘.com’ company.
There is no homepage, no “Table of contents” tab; the first thing you see is a negative COVID-19 test time-stamped with whatever the time and date were when you clicked on the link.
WINK News tried the link it six times, with the same negative test result coming up each time.
The following day, the page showed the message, “The patient you are trying to verify has been tested. If you need a copy of the report. Call our lab.”
With the message was a phone number that, when called, informed you you are calling the Center for COVID Control.
The company’s website says it’s based in Illinois and operates more than 275 locations in 29 states.
It boasts free rapid COVID-19 tests that detect omicron and claims it is highly effective, with results available by the end of the day. No appointment is necessary.
The Center for COVID Control claims it’s “Partnered with a CDC approved and licensed lab.”
It looks and sounds good, but is it legit?
WINK News went out to the test site in Bonita Springs and saw no social distancing and about 15-20 people in the lobby.
On a table were those same cards the Kates filled out and only one person in the entire facility, who said he started working there four hours earlier.
WINK News reporter Michael Hudak asked, “you don’t know the name of the company that you just work for right now?”
Tyler Blackwell, who administers tests, said, “all I can tell you is that the man that should be able to answer all the questions should be back anytime.”
Blackwell looked the part, so Hudak asked, “are you a nurse? Like, you have scrubs on. Are you like a registered nurse?”
Blackwell said, “I am not.”
Blackwell said he bought the scrubs and that anyone can find them at major retailers.
He said he has no medical training or expertise. He hands the swabs to people so they can swab their noses.
Erin Kates said, “this is. It’s criminal. It’s infuriating. I hope it gets shut down fast.”
The test site also had a tip jar that read “Tips for Tony. Blackwell said Tony was a man, but WINK News learned that Tony was a dog.
WINK News reached out to the Center for COVID Control but has not received a response at the time of writing.
We also reached out to Florida’s attorney general. She didn’t respond either, but her office has issued a consumer alert warning Floridians to take precautions to protect their personal information when seeking a COVID-19 test. You can learn more about that alert by clicking here.
California is investigating the Center for COVID Control’s sites in their state, and the Illinois Department of Health released a list of legit testing sites; The Center for COVID Control, which is based in Illinois, is not on their list.