A COVID-19 rapid testing site that opened in North County Monday was shut down by the county for failing to provide proof it has the necessary credentials and certifications required by State law to conduct its tests.
The COVID Clinic, which was started by Orange County doctor Matthew Abinante and is not affiliated with the County Public Health Department, was conducting two types of tests on San Diegans from their car -- a $125 PCR swab that is sent to a lab in Texas to test for COVID-19 and a $75 antibody test that is meant to test if someone has already had COVID-19.
On Wednesday, the County of San Diego ordered the site to immediately cease onsite testing stating the site had failed, “to comply with the requirement of both the California Code of Regulations and the Health Officer Order and Emergency Regulations, to submit test results to the Public Health Officer."
The testing site at MiraCosta College’s San Elijo Campus in Cardiff was still operating Wednesday afternoon after the order was issued.
One resident waiting in line said he was disappointed the testing site was being shut down.
"From what I understand, the test is valid," Oceanside resident Mark Payne said. "It's needed, we need to find out what's going in our community and I would think part of the reason they haven't closed it down is that they're busy doing what they're doing."
Epidemiologist Dr. Eric McDonald warned at Wednesday's county daily briefing, "if I was waiting in line to get a test I would get out of line."
McDonald said an order was given to MiraCosta College to stop allowing the company to conduct testing on its site to which the college was cooperating.
A statement from the college read in part, "Within minutes of receiving a letter from (County Public Health Officer Dr. Wilma Wooten) summarizing the unresolved communication with the county, MiraCosta College notified the organization that they must cease testing as soon as possible; no later than the end of business today, April 15."
When the testing site opened on Monday, the clinic had 120 people registered to be tested. No appointments or referrals were necessary for either test conducted and operators promised the results would be made available in a matter of days.
There was no information on what will happen to the tests already paid for and performed.
That same day, McDonald said during the county's daily press briefing that public health officials had not been made aware of the testing site. The county had asked for documentation for the antibody test.
COVID Clinic has a Westminster location in Orange County, where they had up to 3,000 people tested in 10 days, said a COVID Clinic spokesperson.
The clinic sent an email just before 11:30 p.m. Wednesday to individuals who registered for either test to inform them of the closure. However, its statement did not say the closure came as a result of the county's order and instead said it is "in the process of moving the testing center to a new location in San Diego County."
COVID Clinic's statement in full:
Thank you for registering for Covid Clinic's Covid-19 testing service. Our site at MiraCosta College San Elijo is permanently closed. We are in the process of moving the testing center to a new location in San Diego County. Once we have confirmed the new location's opening date and operating hours we will send you an email with more details. The new testing site will offer more capacity and longer operating hours to better serve San Diegans. Our goal in making this transition is to minimize the wait times of our patients and to improve the overall experience. Thanks!
Mira Costa College's statement in full:
The COVID Clinic exercised a civic permit for the rental of the parking lot at MiraCosta College’s San Elijo Campus. The clinic is not associated with or endorsed by the district. A civic use permit makes college facilities available to the community and service organizations, governmental entities, businesses, and both nonprofit and for-profit corporations may use certain college facilities when available. To support the community good during a pandemic, MiraCosta College waived the rental fee associated with use of the parking lot as the renting entity, COVID Clinic, indicated the clinic would be self-contained, provide traffic control, uphold safety standards, and other provisions for their employees and participants.
The college allowed for one week of parking lot usage to end this Friday evening.
On Wednesday afternoon, after being contacted by San Diego County Public Health to cease the COVID Clinic operations, MiraCosta College took swift action. Within minutes of receiving a letter from Dr. Wooten, Director of Public Health Services County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency, summarizing the unresolved communication with the county, MiraCosta College notified the organization that they must cease testing as soon as possible; no later than the end of business today, April 15.
As a collaborative partner in the San Diego community, our unwavering focus has been on flattening the curve to limit the impact and severity of the COVID-19 pandemic.
NBC 7 reached out to the clinic and have yet to get back to our request for comment.
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