A Carlsbad woman who paid $75 for a COVID-19 antibody test told NBC 7 Investigates she now has serious doubts about the accuracy of that test.
“After I got home, I thought, OK, I think I just got scammed,” said Jennifer, who asked NBC 7 not to reveal her last name.
Jennifer was tested Tuesday, April 14 at a Cardiff drive-thru COVID-19 test center called “COVID Clinic,” run by an Orange County company named Elevated Health.
The next day, the San Diego County Public Health Department shut down the business, according to the order obtained by NBC 7. Public Health officials said the company had not provided proper certification that verifies its standards and quality of the blood test, which can detect the presence of coronavirus.
Jennifer said she paid the $75 test fee while waiting in line at the COVID Clinic’s test site, located in a parking lot that the company rented from Miracosta Community College’s San Elijo Campus. Jennifer said the company emailed her a consent form after she paid the fee, while she was still waiting for her test.
She was upset when she read the disclaimers on the form: the test, she learned, has not been reviewed by the FDA, and that the COVID Clinic acknowledged that a negative test result would not rule out a COVID-19 infection. The disclaimer also warned that results from antibody testing should not be the only basis of diagnosis.
“So it’s pretty much saying they’re not standing by their results,” Jennifer said.
According to the documentation provided to Jennifer, the company said it trusted its test because it had yielded accurate results when tested on a “few people” who were previously diagnosed as either COVID-19 negative or positive.
The paperwork also said its tests are likely somewhere between 85 and 96 percent accurate.
COVID Clinic did not respond to NBC 7’s questions, or requests for comment on the county’s order to shut down, or on their testing.
Jennifer thought she might test positive because she’d been sick with symptoms she thought were consistent with COVID 19. Her test results came back negative, but Jennifer said she lost confidence in the test when she asked a COVID Clinic employee specific questions about her test results.
“He tried to ask another (employee), and she just shrugged her shoulders and said, ‘I don’t know.’ And that was the extent of their medical advice.”
At a news conference Thursday, a county health official confirmed that the COVID Clinic had not provided proper certification to offer the test to the public.
The official urged anyone who wants to be tested to talk with their healthcare provider about their symptoms, before getting tested. If the provider agrees that a test is necessary, he or she can help the patient find a legitimate, licensed test center. (County residents who don’t have a health provider can call 2-1-1 for free help and advice.)
The county health department also developed this diagram to help you determine if a COVID-19 test is appropriate for you.
To see the diagram, click here.
Public records show the COVID Clinic is run by a Huntington Beach osteopath, Dr. Matthew Abinante, who also sees patients at his Elevated Health medical clinic.
Abinante is licensed and in good standing with the state Osteopathic Medical Board.
NBC 7 Investigates tried to reach Abinate for comment after the drive-thru clinic closed, but he has not responded.
COVID Clinic advertised on its website that it operated COVID-19 testing sites in Westminster, Orange County, and Malibu in Los Angeles County.
When NBC 7 Investigates contacted Malibu's Public Information Officer on Thursday, he confirmed COVID Clinic only ran the city's web portal initially and had never performed tests.
After NBC 7’s questions, the city of Malibu said it would remove any mention of COVID Clinic on its website.
It appeared on Thursday that the Westminster location was still operating.
On its Facebook page, Elevated Health defended its testing.
“(Governor) Newsom wants testing, but then those below him are blocking testing,” an author for Elevated Health wrote, referring to San Diego County health officials. “Makes zero sense.”