The Laboratory Field Services Division of the California Department of Public Health said in a press release back in February that a routine inspection by the agency in December found “significant deficiencies” at the Valencia Branch Laboratory operated by PerkinElmer.
According to the state, the laboratory was opened to expand testing capacity and ensure access to testing for neighborhoods that were “disproportionately affected by the pandemic at a time when testing was relatively scarce and supply chains were strained.”
Out of a total of more than 1.5 million tests performed, the VBL issued corrected reports for approximately 60 (.0039%) samples and had been unable to test approximately 250 samples (.017%) due to lab errors.
PerkinElmer told the state at the time that nearly all of the deficiencies cited had already been resolved and that those in still in the process would be “sufficiently resolved soon.” The state said a full report on the VBL, including responses from PerkinElmer, would be made available in mid-March.
However, according to an investigation by CBS13, that report still has not been released, even as schools in the area have been encouraged to partner with the lab for COVID-19 testing for high contact youth sports.
Nevada Union High School, one of many local schools partnering with the lab, was forced to cancel their football game last week due to COVID-19 testing delays from VBL.
“There’s a lot of anxiety over whether we’re going to be able to get test results back in time,” Nevada Union Athletic Director Daniel Crossen told CBS13 on Friday.
Rocklin High, where local mom Tina Watts’ son plays football, also had to cancel their game due to the lab’s delays.
“Ultimately, they failed our school and they failed our kids,” Watts told CBS13. “It’s just really heartbreaking, just crushing.”
Meanwhile, students at Armador High School took matters into their own hands by getting their results from a different lab while waiting for the delayed results from the VLB.
While the other lab’s tests cleared the players on Friday, VLB results finally returned by the state on Sunday revealed that one of Amador’s players received a positive test result, leading to the team being placed in quarantine.
When CBS13 inquired about the delays, CDPH shared an email signed by PerkinElmer lab director Adam Rosendorff, which was allegedly sent to the lab’s clients informing them that the delays were caused by a “round of water checks” and “routine maintenance.”
However, CBS13 later obtained internal emails sent by top management, discussing “the contamination issue last week” that “resulted in a halt to production.”
A PerkinElmer spokesperson told FOX News that the VBL “takes the integrity of our results very seriously, including the potential for false-positive results.”
While not confirming or denying the potential for contamination, the spokespeson added that cleaning procedures are “perofrmed regularly” in all areas according to laboratory protocols.
The CDPH did not immediately return FOX News’ requests for comment on the CBS13 investigation and the claims of potential contamination.
PerkinElmer is contractually required under a $1.7 billion agreement with the state to process an average of 150,000 tests per day.
An inspection FAQ from PerkinElmer notes that while the $1.7 billion figure is the maximum amount of the state’s contract with PerkinElmer, so far state costs are “far below that figure.”
“The state pays a fixed price based on volume and pays an additional variable cost for the number of tests processed. The state collects health insurance information and bills insurers to recoup the cost of testing,” the company writes. “The actual amount paid to PerkinElmer to date is $286.2 million, an amount that will be lowered by insurance reimbursements.”
According to CBS13, recent lab records indicate roughly 72,000 total samples were processed by the VBL last week, including hundreds of “canceled” samples that were not tested.
State data reportedly shows that the lab reported 2,000 invalid, lost or canceled samples in March alone, but internal data obtained by CBS13 reportedly revealed far more.
CBS13 revealed that roughly 1 out of every 126 tests since January could not be processed just based on the state’s numbers.
The CBS13 investigation comes after the outlet reported on allegations from whistleblowers at VBL that unlicensed lab techs were found sleeping on the job, in addition to claims of lost samples, wrong results and contamination issues.