Questions Persist Around COVID-19 Testing
Updated: Aug 27, 2020
Citing a lack of adequate COVID-19 testing from the County of Los Angeles, on April 27 the City of Carson entered into an agreement with US Health Fairs to administer free coronavirus tests to Carson residents.
Carson was a leader in providing this option at the outset of the pandemic, and the City of Pico Rivera quickly followed with a testing site administered by the same organization. To-date, the Carson testing center has administered well over 15,000 tests, according to reports from the City.
Questions began to arise quickly, however, after the testing site was announced. US Health Fairs faced issues the first week as more people showed up for testing than the non-profit had accounted for originally.
Residents also noted slow turnaround on test results. CAT received numerous emails noting some residents had waited up to a month for tests results, and several others still have not received any results after several months of waiting. In fact, Councilmembers Cedric Hicks, Lula Davis-Holmes and Mayor Pro Tem Jim Dear all reported delays in receiving their own initial test results.
Assistant City Manager Dave Roberts blamed the delay on the overwhelming number of applications taken in, urging patients to give correct information to make it easier for labs to identify applicants with their tests.
Medical Director of US Health Fairs Dr. Camellia Babaie attended the June 9 and July 21 City Council meetings to explain problems with the continued lag of test results, citing technology failures and inadequate systems at the outset.
Other cities have had issues with the organization as well. On May 12, the City of Irvine entered into a contract with US Health Fairs for drive-thru COVID-19 testing and optional antibody testing. The next day Irvine Mayor Christina Shea called for a revote on the item, citing concerns regarding the antibody testing.
Additional issues arose surrounding the details of testing program, and the plan was cancelled.
According to the Voice of OC, Councilwoman Melissa Fox said “the collapse of the contract came after multiple misrepresentations by US Health Fairs, including the actual cost of the proposed antibody tests.” That same article noted Irvine’s concern with response times to patients in Carson and Pico Rivera.
CAT began to research US Health Fairs and found that they had refiled their corporate papers in February of this year. Before COVID-19, the group’s website listed that its focus was screening for genetic links to cancer and Alzheimer’s.
The company’s website lists its headquarters at 3751 Motor Ave. in Los Angeles, which is shared with a U.S. Post Office, suggesting that the address is a PO Box. An initial call made by CAT to US Health Fairs returned a “Google Voice” recording.These questions prompted CAT to file a public information request for the details of US Health Fair’s agreement with the City of Carson. CAT obtained the contract on June 25, which is available here.
Mayor Al Robles thanked the non-profit at the May 19 council meeting, pointing out that despite dozens of complaints, thousands of others who did take the test for free have received their results.
“If it’s not US Health Fairs doing this for free in Carson, we wouldn’t have it,” said the Mayor. “Because the county ignored us for over two months as we as a council demanded a test site here in Carson. L.A. County ignored us repeatedly.”