6 Investigates: Drive-thru COVID-19 testing facilities and patients' personal information

6 Investigates: Keeping your personal information safe during COVID-19 testing
Posted at 6:05 AM, Mar 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-04 22:51:07-05

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — It was a desperate feeling. Myra Morin's husband came home December 10 with the news that he'd come in contact with a co-worker who'd tested positive for COVID-19.

He wouldn't be allowed back until he could show a negative test, or quarantine for two weeks. All she could think about was getting him tested as soon as possible. She needed one, too. So, did their 10-year-old son.

So, when she drove by the Arcadia Shopping Center on Ayers St., the little sign advertising free COVID-19 testing caught her eye. After learning that a test a friend had taken elsewhere cost $100, she said she decided to give the free test a try.

"They said we'd get results in three to five days. It was Friday. So, I figured we could get him back to work by Monday or Tuesday," said Morin.

Morin sent three emails requesting her results after more than 72 hours had passed. This was her final email to "It has now been 17 days since I tested at your facility at the Arcadia Shopping Center in Corpus Christi, TX. My husband, myself and my 10-year-old son tested on December 10th and were given information that the results would be provided within 36 to 72 hours. As you are aware from my prior emails...I have received nothing. My concern is that your place of "business" has our SSI numbers, DOB, home address, insurance info, etc...This has been a very disappointing experience with your facility and hope (sic) that any other consumers that seek your assistance for Covid testing get better service. I certainly hope you are in fact contacting the positive Covid patients, ASAP."

Morin received this response: "You will receive results to the email address you provided at the time of testing. It takes 36–72 hours to receive results. This does not include weekends. If you have not gotten anything to your email within this time frame, then please email me back your full name and date of birth. Thank you and have a great day."

Email from DJR Wellness Clinic
Email from DJR Wellness

That response came from Katelynn Jongema, a receptionist working remotely for DJR Wellness Clinic through a Houston-based business called The Grinder Group.

Prior to providing COVID-19 testing, the company sold electricity door-to-door, according to company CEO Mickey Weaver and public records. After obtaining proper certifications for its employees, The Grinder Group performs the tests, secures the specimens and ships them to a lab.

KRIS-6 News learned all of that by traveling to the Houston area in search of the DJR Wellness Clinic and Immunogenomics, the lab listed on the emails sent to Myra Morin.

We arrived at the address listed for DJR Wellness Clinic, 1937 Texas Parkway, Missouri City, TX, to find a vacant office at a strip mall. A person at the office next door told us no one had been there in several months, but he recalled that DJR Wellness was "...some sort of mental, adult daycare type business."

From there, we traveled to nearby Sugarland, where we found the Immunogenomics lab. It was a small building in an office park.

After walking inside, we were told to wait outside while someone called the lab's owner. Within 10 minutes, the owner, a man named Chirag Patel, arrived. Together, we called the number that Myra Morin said she had called many times without getting an answer. A woman answered on our second try. We asked if we could come and take a COVID-19 test. She said that we could. The lab owner followed us there.

We arrived at the address after a ten-minute drive and found a church with an activities building next door. A banner was tacked to the wall of the activities building identifying it as the DJR Wellness Clinic. Inside, we were greeted by Robin Booker, who identified herself as the founder of DJR Wellness. We told her we were from KRIS-6 News and were investigating the drive-through COVID-19 testing locations in Corpus Christi.

She offered a tour of her facility. She explained that DJR Wellness had moved from the strip mall location months ago. She said every COVID-19 testing site had to be conducted under the auspices of an M.D. She identified a Houston doctor as the one affiliated with DJR Wellness. We checked the connection and found it to be current and credible.

Booker said DJR Wellness does not profit from the drive-through COVID-19 testing sites.

"What's in it for you?" we asked.

"We want to help the community. That's all. There are many services we provide that we profit from. But, that's not one of them,” she said.

Booker says she oversees The Grinder Group's testing operations. When we told her that the sites we visited were run by a single person, she called Weaver and made sure he understood that the sites were to be run by two or more trained and certified people. A week later, we drove by the site on Ayers Street and saw only one person operating it.

While this was happening, a woman who identified herself as Twinkle Patel, co-owner of the lab with her husband, appeared with a laptop in hand. When told that we were investigating the COVID-19 testing sites, Patel accused us of targeting minority-owned businesses. We assured her that was not our intent, especially since we had no idea who owned any of the businesses in question when we traveled to the Houston area, and that we were simply acting on a complaint from a viewer.

We explained to Booker and Patel that Myra Morin had not received test results for her family and herself. Patel then agreed to look up those results, after we put Morin on the phone with her. After some searching, Patel found the test results and emailed them to Morin, her husband and her son.

"They were all negative," said Morin, who added that it was a moot point now that so much time had passed. Morin and her family took their tests on December 10, 2020, and KRIS 6 was able to secure her results on January 8, 2021.

Twinkle Patel assured Morin that her personal information, as well as that of thousands of other people tested, was secure and that there was no threat of identity theft. The Health Resources and Services Administration says that social security numbers are a helpful identifier, although not required for reimbursement. Patel told us that her lab analyzes at least a thousand tests per day, and could do up to 12-thousand. She also said Immunogenomics was certified in every state.

After leaving the Houston area, we contacted Annette Rodriguez, Director of Public Health for Corpus Christi and Nueces County.

"I don't think I'd ever do that," said Rodriguez when asked if people should give their social security numbers at a COVID-19 testing site. “If they're wanting your social security number, I wouldn't be giving it to them. We don't ask for either of those when we test."

Rodriguez says the county offers free testing every day and only asks for name, address and telephone number as identification.

"The state does not require social security numbers," she said.

KRIS-6 News contacted all government agencies responsible for reimbursement to laboratories for COVID-19 testing services. None required social security numbers. However, Scott Kodish with the Health Resources and Services Administration did say that social security numbers could speed up the process for reimbursement.

I-Team Chief Investigator Matt Stevens went through the COVID-19 testing site on Ayers Street in Corpus Christi. He was asked to provide his driver's license and email address. He was then emailed a form to fill out on his phone. The form asked for personal information, including a social security number. The form indicated that the social security number was optional. However, when Stevens tried repeatedly to send the form without it, the form was rejected every time. At that point, he drove away.