City Attorney demands transparency to ensure the integrity of COVID testing in San Francisco
SAN FRANCISCO (January 11, 2022) — City Attorney David Chiu sent a letter yesterday to Community Wellness America, Inc., a potentially unlicensed COVID testing operator, demanding that the company produce the appropriate licenses in order to continue providing COVID tests in San Francisco. In partnership with the San Francisco Department of Public Health (DPH), the City Attorney’s Office has initiated an investigation into rogue COVID testing operators in the City.
“During this Omicron surge, ensuring the integrity of our COVID testing operations is of the utmost importance,” said City Attorney David Chiu. “Our testing capacity is stretched to the maximum right now, and there is understandable anxiety about finding a test. It is unconscionable that rogue actors would exploit that situation and set up unlicensed testing facilities to turn a quick profit. By and large, testing operators in San Francisco are licensed and lawful, but we will use all legal tools available to weed out the few bad actors who may not be operating in compliance with the law.”
As early as January 5, reports began of individuals operating on behalf of Community Wellness America, Inc. offering COVID tests on public property near Golden Gate Park and Dolores Park, among other areas. When asked, those pop-up testing operations were unable to produce valid, up-to-date Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) licenses.
All testing operators must have a valid CLIA license issued by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). To obtain a CLIA license, an operator must demonstrate it uses only FDA-approved COVID tests.
Private testing operators do not need to obtain a license from the San Francisco Department of Public Health in order to perform COVID tests in San Francisco. However, if an operator intends to conduct testing on city property or block a public right-of-way, the operator must have a permit issued by the San Francisco Department of Public Works
While reports of potentially unlicensed facilities are concerning, these reports represent a small fraction of COVID testing operations in San Francisco. In addition to a number of private operators properly licensed by CMS, DPH-affiliated testing sites account for more than 60 percent of tests administered daily.
The letter concerning Community Wellness America, Inc. can be found here.
Members of the public in need of a COVID test are encouraged to first contact their healthcare provider for a test and then explore DPH-affiliated testing site options. If a member of the public suspects a testing facility to be operating without the proper authorization, they should notify city officials by submitting a tip to 311.