December 3, 2023

Philadelphia officials are warning residents to avoid pop-up tents offering COVID-19 testing in Center City that claim to be funded by the federal government.

The tents started operating around Center City in late December and city officials confirmed over the weekend that they had falsely claimed they were backed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

» READ MORE: What to know about the accuracy of rapid at-home COVID-19 tests

Lab Elite, a Chicago-based company offering PCR tests, runs testing sites in several cities and said it collected about 4,000 test samples in Philadelphia last month. Owner Nikola Nozinic blamed the issues in Philadelphia on the local test collector hired to collect the samples and said he has shut them down.

The confusion came amid a surge in COVID-19 cases in Philadelphia that has made it hard to find available tests. The city is averaging the highest number of new daily cases since the pandemic began, with an average of 2,654 new cases per day in the past two weeks as of Monday. The situation also alarmed residents who had been tested at the sites, many of whom were still awaiting results.

“My daughter and I had looked all over for rapid tests after some friends tested positive, but we couldn’t find any,” said local community organizer and college professor Marwan Kreidie, who got tested at one of the Lab Elite sites.

Many legitimate mobile testing operations have emerged since the pandemic began, offering free testing to residents by…

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