After spending time in her hometown over the holidays, Colorado State University student Amanda Ruybal was back in Fort Collins for about a day when the symptoms started.
At first it was a stuffy nose. Then came the tightness of the chest, a sore throat and some fatigue.
Before long, Ruybal learned that her father had tested positive for COVID-19 at home, so she rushed to a testing center in downtown Fort Collins for some peace of mind.
Two weeks later, she’s still waiting for her full test results, and she’s not alone.
With the recent surge in COVID-19 cases fueling demand at testing sites, complaints about some sites’ testing practices — and growing concerns about potential COVID-19 testing scams — are swirling through Colorado and the rest of the country.
What is reported locally?
Mac Again Medical Group, which runs the 1700 S. College Ave. test site that Ruybal went to early this month, was the subject of a handful of complaints filed the week of Jan. 9 with the Larimer County Health Department. Department spokesman Kori Wilford told the Coloradoan on Wednesday. .
Individuals who complained to the department’s call center said they had not received their COVID-19 test results from the site. Some also said Mac Again’s patient questionnaire asked them for their Social Security number, which they said was too personal for a COVID-19 testing questionnaire.
Testing positive for COVID-19?:Here’s What the CDC Says You Should Do
Wilford noted that Mako Medical, which operates Larimer County’s free testing sites, also asked for Social Security numbers when it first began operating the county’s testing sites. Mako Medical has since removed that field from its online registration form at the request of the county, Wilford said.
Colorado’s state health department has also received complaints about Mac Again and is working with its federal partners to investigate. The complaints are about the cleanliness of the sites, a lack of physical distancing and the failure to provide test results in a timely manner, a department spokesperson said in an email to the Coloradoan on Friday.
Ruybal and Avalon Clare — another recent customer of Mac Again’s Fort Collins test site — both told the Coloradoan that while they got their rapid test results from Mac Again within minutes of submitting their tests, neither of them delivered the promised PCR test results. received.
Looking back, Ruybal said the test site, which operates out of a modest shopping center in downtown Fort Collins, felt casual for a medical office.
The building was cramped with other test subjects — some of whom, according to Ruybal, had pulled their masks under their noses.
“It just didn’t seem right,” Ruybal said. “But I was just glad I had something.”
After traveling from Milwaukee to Fort Collins to see family for the vacation, Clare said she too was desperate for a COVID-19 testing site after the friend she drove to Colorado on Dec. 29 developed symptoms.
Because Larimer County’s free Fort Collins testing site in Timberline Church sometimes had to wait for hours at a time in late December, Clare said she was lucky to find Mac Again, who popped up in her Google search results and promised free, rapid and PCR-COVID-19 tests.
Clare, Clare’s fiancé and their friend were all tested together. Their rapid test results, like Ruybal’s, came back in minutes, but they never heard about their PCR tests again, Clare said.
Clare said she called the site and followed the instructions on the automated message to inquire about the group’s missing PCR results. She also tried to fill out a contact form on the company’s website, but said it was disabled.
“I held out my hand every way they said,” Clare said.
After finding little information about Mac Again Medical Group online, Clare became increasingly concerned when she came across: a January 7 USA TODAY report listing similar complaints about Center for Covid Control, a separate Illinois-based COVID-19 testing company that is now under investigation by the Colorado Department of Health, the Oregon Department of Justice, and at least two Better Business Bureau locations.
“I feel a little silly because looking back it seems a little too good to be true,” Clare said.
Mac responds again
A man who identified himself as the manager of Mac Again’s Colorado sites told a Colorado reporter on Friday that Mac Again’s Colorado sites had previously been associated with Center for Covid Control but hadn’t been since November. He declined to give the Coloradoan his last name or make any official statements from the medical group.
The man said some recent Mac Again tests may not have been processed because the labs Mac Again uses were flooded as COVID-19 cases skyrocketed and major pharmacies like Walgreens and CVS stopped scheduling COVID-19 testing appointments — leaving Mac Again it was inundated with more patients.
No rapid or PCR testing appointments were available Friday at any of the Walgreens or CVS locations in Fort Collins, the pharmacy websites indicated.
The unnamed Mac Again executive also addressed a fear Ruybal expressed about the medical group potentially using the patient questionnaire to collect personal information or bill patients for insurance for tests that were never completed. While Ruybal entered her insurance information into the patient questionnaire, she said her insurance hadn’t factored it in as of Wednesday.
The manager said all of Mac Again’s systems are HIPAA certified to protect personal information. He also disputed a claim by Ruybal that she saw one of Mac Again’s Fort Collins employees wearing a plastic face shield but not a face mask while working at the site on Jan. 1.
What’s Happening at Other Colorado COVID-19 Testing Sites
Since the regulation of diagnostic lab testing has been delegated to the states’ respective health departments through the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the Larimer County Health Department has referred people with complaints about the testing site to the state.
Complaints can be made to the Colorado Department of Health by emailing [email protected]
Following several complaints about the Center for Covid Control locations in Colorado, the state health department is actively investigating them in conjunction with both state and federal officials, the department confirmed Friday.
Thursday, following news that the Oregon Department of Justice and two Better Business Bureau offices were also investigating the company, the Center for Covid Control announced it would temporarily pause its testing activities until January 22, citing a press release from the company that “unusually high” recent patient demand impacted “our usual customer service standards and diagnostic goals.”
More from USA Today:FDA warns of unapproved COVID-19 testing due to ‘high risk of false results’
Center for Covid Control has locations throughout Colorado, including a planned Fort Collins location to open Monday in the “strip of business” at 2925 S. College Ave., according to a sign on the unit’s door.
“We ask anyone with COVID-19 symptoms not to wait to get tested or wait for test results before isolating themselves from others,” Wilford wrote in an email to the Coloradoan. “With the surge in Omicron cases, we rely on our community to do the right thing and stay home when we feel sick.”
Erin Udell reports on news, culture, history and more for the Coloradoan. Contact her at [email protected] The only way she can continue to do what she does is with your support. If you subscribe, thank you. If not, sign up for a digital subscription to the Coloradoan today.