CHICAGO (CBS) — A Facebook post in a south suburban moms’ group prompted a CBS 2 Investigation.
A popup COVID testing site was spotted at a gas station’s service entrance, and we quickly learned, it’s not the only one. So we wanted to know – are these testing sites legitimate, and who is regulating these facilities?
CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey spent the day trying to get answers.
The labs where the tests are processed are regulated by the State of Illinois, but the actual collection sites themselves are not regulated in the same way. That is how a site in a gas station garage is allowed to exist.
While many drivers are filling up at the gas station near the Dan Ryan Woods, a garage attached to the gas station just feet from the pumps has been outfitted with a lawn chair, a desk chair, a broken space heater, and a Styrofoam box.
These items are the backdrop for one of the newest COVID-19 testing sites on the city’s Southwest Side.
Hickey talked with Yaseen Sharreef, a lab technician with Western Labs, about the appearance of the testing site.
Hickey: “What do you say to someone who is kind of sketched out by this?”
Sharreef: “Yeah, I know, there has been rumors. We are just helping the community. We are not charging anything. It’s for free.”
Hickey: “But you are getting reimbursed by insurance.”
Hickey: “That’s how you guys make money.”
Sharreef said he went through a lab tech certification process in order to collect samples at the pop-up testing site. He gave Hickey a PCR test on the spot.
Hickey asked Sharreef how the system works. He said the collection site is affiliated with Western Labs – which, we checked, successfully applied for a two-year certification with the state on Sept. 7.
The “lab location” is also located at a gas station.
When Hickey asked Sharreef about the unconventional space, he said they’re gauging interest and are planning to get a bigger, more official looking space if the interest continues.
“Our lab is certified. My boss is certified, yes – so everyone is accredited,” Sharreef said. “Some of them may be fly-by-night testing.”
Just last week, Gov. JB Pritzker said questionable pop-up sites will be investigated by the Attorney General’s office.
When Hickey asked Shareef about “profiting off the pandemic,” he said he believes there are some bad actors out there – and test takers should be wary of sites that ask for money.
But he said his intentions are only for good.
“I got into this because I wanted to help people; to help the community; to help them know this is serious, and people should take this serious,” Sharreef said.
We have gotten complaints from some viewers about delayed results at some of the pop-up testing sites. At the gas station site, Hickey was told that she would receive my results in 24 to 48 hours.
We should note, though, that a CBS employee who went to the same site on Saturday morning was still waiting for her results Monday evening.
There is an online database where you can check active licenses for COVID-19 testing sites. You can find it here.
Source: CBS Chicago