With demand for COVID-19 testing skyrocketing, San Diego County health officials are advising people to be aware of potential fake pop-up sites offering free testing.
On Monday, one such site in City Heights — though apparently not illegal — drew the ire of county chief medical officer Dr. Eric McDonald.
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McDonald had just finished a news conference at a county testing site nearby at the City Heights Recreation Center when he saw the line of people waiting to be tested at the pop-up site. That site, which was not affiliated with the county and whose operators said was operating for free, had been set up adjacent to the county site, and some people in the long county line moved to the pop-up location.
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McDonald voiced concerns that the pop-up site potentially did not have licensed medical professionals on site and that people may not have been aware the pop-up was not affiliated with the county.
McDonald even called San Diego police, but officers did not take any action because the pop-up was on public property, and according to a city spokesperson, police could not take any action because nothing being done was illegal.
The pop-up in question included two red awnings, one of them with a large sign that said, “Free Covid Test, non-invasive, PCR DNA Saliva, No Appointment, Takes Few Minutes, 48-hour results.”
The signage did not include a logo of who was operating the site, nor did it have any information on the lab providing results. The lack of identifying information did not prevent people from getting in line and leaving saliva samples in clear tubes.
One worker at the pop-up site was wearing a Chargers sweatshirt. Another , who handling samples, had a plastic glove on one hand but not the other. The samples were put in a clear baggie, and then a clear plastic container, and were left in the open.
None of the workers a the pop-up site would provide any information to NBC 7, but DeAngelo Teus, who said he was in charge of the site, said the group was providing a service for the community in the middle of a pandemic, and had a message for McDonald.
“We’re not going anywhere, so you call who you want, do whatever you want, you be mad — that’s all you can do is be mad,” Teus said.
Teus would not say who he was affiliated with, nor would he provide any specific information about the pop-up testing site or the lab being used to conduct the testing.
“I could, but I decline to make any comments in regards to the lab on camera,” Teus said. “We definitely make the customers aware of where their samples, and what lab they’re being sent to, and things of that nature.”
Teus said his workers did not take any personal information, though personal information is being sent to the unknown lab. He also said he was providing the service because people were being forced to wait in long lines to be tested by the county. He said his workers make it clear it’s not a county-run site.
“Yes, we do, absolutely, because we’re actually doing different types of tests," Teus said. "Obviously you have rapid tests, you have saliva tests, PCR tests and stuff like that, so, the one that the county’s doing takes a lot longer, not only to get in the building, but it takes longer to get the results, so we’re letting them know that we’re out here and what we’re doing, and we’re just trying to provide an additional resource to the community to get tested.”
By Tuesday, the pop-up site was gone. So far this week, it hasn’t been back.
Meanwhile, the county said legitimate testing sites should be able to show medical credentials upon request and what laboratory test is being used.
County officials warn a testing site could be fake if its workers ask for Social Security numbers or other non-medical information, if materials do not have a logo, or if a site is on a sidewalk or is not affiliated with a medical provider.