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Who else was duped by the Center for COVID Control?

By Sidney Madden | @sidney_madden_


Federal and state authorities are investigating the Center for COVID Control, a testing site with pop-ups across the country and city, after widespread false negatives and 40,000 wasted tests, Block Club Chicago reported. 

And, yep, I’m one of the people who got duped.

I’ve gone to the center’s Lakeview location a handful of times over the last six months. (I live with an elementary school teacher and decided to get tested regularly at the beginning of the school year.) 

In August, staffers told me not to put down my insurance. So I never did. 

When I didn’t get a PCR test result back early in the fall, a staffer gave me the phone number of a higher-up who could expedite a new test for me — no charge. I called, and he did. 

As cases began to surge, it took more time to get my test results, if I got them at all, and I couldn’t wait an hour for customer service each time. 

Then came omicron. With backed-up labs and long lines, the center stopped giving PCR tests. (To find out the results of my last PCR test, I waited for more than four hours only to get a voicemail.)

Pic 1: An iPhone screenshot that reads 4 hours 2 minutes 54 seconds. Pic 2: Dozens of people line up along the street to get tested. It's a sunny day, but it's cold, and people wear coats, hats, and other winter gear.
A four-plus-hour hold with the Center for COVID Control’s customer service, and a line at 3619 N. Broadway the week of Dec. 20. (Images by Sidney Madden)

If you’re like me, maybe you feel bad for not suspecting something was up sooner. But what other options did we have? There’s such wide testing variety: I’ve done the University of Illinois’ saliva test, drive-thrus, and more in the last two years. It’s hard to know what’s standard and what’s not. 

Plus, centers in Michigan, Massachusetts, and Oregon have been caught running similar schemes, according to the Washington Post. And fake at-home tests are among us, too, ABC7 reported. 

So while these bad actors boast about rolling in “COVID money” — at least $124 million in federal cash, according to USA Today — I’m one of many wondering how many false negatives I could have had, how many of my loved ones I could have exposed, and where to get a test next.

👉 Get tested at the state’s free community sites. Order your free at-home tests from the federal government Wednesday.


Chicago’s proof-of-vaccine requirement at bars, restaurants, and live music venues has been in effect for two weeks. It’s been a welcome addition for some businesses, workers, and customers, but not for others. 

At least 10 restaurants have received citations, the city’s Dept. of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection told City Cast. A man pulled a knife on a manager at El Trebol Liquors and Bar in Pilsen after his friend wasn’t let in because he didn’t have proof of vaccination, according to Block Club Chicago.

🎧 Chicago Tribune’s Joel Noel tells us how Chicagoans’ reactions have varied, and City Winery’s concert coordinator shares customers’ responses. 

👉 It’s a tough time for the hospitality business: Donate to the Hideout’s staff relief fund.


▪️ Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin, a Republican, officially tossed his hat into the governor’s race Monday. Will billionaire Ken Griffin back him? 👀 [Capitol Fax]

▪️ Top watchdog: Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office and other city agencies mishandled the wrongful raid of Anjanette Young’s home. [WBEZ]

▪️ Activists are pushing for a 16-day CTA shutdown after news broke that Jason Van Dyke, the cop who killed Laquan McDonald, was getting released early next month. [WGN]

▪️ Nigerian writer Demilade Phillips says “Family Matters,” the ‘90s show set in Chicago, permeated borders. [The Triibe]


+ TODAY: Virtual National Day of Racial Healing
Join TRHT Chicago to reflect on community transformation at 6 p.m.

+ TODAY & WEDNESDAY: Tentflix & Chill double feature in Bucktown
See “Eight Below” and “Twilight” from your heated tent at Lottie’s at 5:30 p.m.

+ THIS MONTH: Woodlawn homeowner grant
Apply for up to $20,000 to fix exterior home repairs by Feb. 15.


Chicago winters can be rough — I don’t think it’s the cold so much as the lack of sunlight. (Getting dark at 4 p.m. is a special kind of evil IMO.)

But those days are soon behind us: T-10 days until the sun sets at 5 p.m. 😎 

And if you think about it, Daylight Saving isn’t too long after that! (Hey, you have your light therapy box, and I have my sunset countdown — let’s not judge our winter coping strategies, OK?) 

A yellow sun smiles with rosky cheeks and its eyes closed. Yellow and brown rays beam in and out on the neutral beige background.

🎧 You still have plenty of time to try and enjoy the cold! Listen to this City Cast episode to learn how. 

Correction: According to Block Club Chicago, the man who pulled a knife on a manager at El Trebol Liquors and Bar in Pilsen did show proof of vaccination. It was his friend who did not have proof.