Sheriff Villanueva will not use county’s coronavirus testing provider over alleged ties with China

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said on Monday that his department would no longer use the county’s coronavirus testing provider over concerns about the company’s alleged ties with the Chinese government.

In a letter to the board of supervisors, Villanueva said the FBI contacted her last week and held a briefing the day after Thanksgiving to address the “serious risks associated with allowing Fulgent to take a COVID-19 test” of county employees. ” can be removed.

Villanueva said the obtained DNA data “is not guaranteed to be safe and secure from foreign governments” and advised the FBI that the information was likely to be shared with China. Fulgent Genetics, he said in the letter, has “strong ties” with Chinese technology and genomics companies, but did not specify what those ties are.

Villanueva said she attended a briefing at the FBI’s L.A. field office with the county’s top attorney and chief executive. An FBI spokesman declined to comment when asked to confirm what was discussed in the meeting.

LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said she was invited to the briefing by text, but could not attend because she was out of town for Thanksgiving.

“From what I heard about the briefing, there was no evidence, void, that Fulgent had breached anything or had any affiliation with the Chinese government that was harmful to the information that may have been present in the samples they used.” testing,” she said.

It is not clear whether the FBI interviewed any other federal, state or local agencies using Fulgent.

“We have no evidence that they met anyone other than us,” Kuehl said.

The county’s contract restricts the disclosure of data collected without the county’s written permission and requires that the company store and process data in the continental United States, the county said in a statement Monday.

Federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, also contract with Fulgent, which is certified by the Food and Drug Administration, accredited by the College of American Pathologists and licensed by the California Department of Public Health, the statement said. . The company is located in Temple City.

“If a credible threat is confirmed, or if the federal government takes any steps to revoke its certification, we will take immediate action to ensure that no employee data is misused,” the county statement stated in.

In March, Fulgent said it had been awarded a contract by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to provide genomic sequencing of random positive samples.

Villanueva said in their letter that Fulgent “makes no attempt to hide the fact that they will use the genetic information obtained in future studies.”

“Entering a no-bid contract with Fulgent Genetics and allowing them to obtain DNA data derived from mandatory COVID-19 testing for undisclosed purposes shattered all of my personnel’s confidence in this entire process under county mandate.” given,” wrote Villanueva.

County employees are required to register their vaccination status with Fulgant, and those who have not been vaccinated are required to submit them for routine testing.

The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Professional Assn, a union with about 1,850 members, sued the registration order, saying its members were being forced to provide confidential medical and peace officer personnel information.

Villanueva said the sheriff’s department will use its own registration system and work with probing testing companies that are not affiliated with Fulgant.

Supervisor Janice Hahn said Monday that Villanueva should focus on implementing the county’s employee vaccination mandate.

“I want the sheriff to do his duty to get vaccinated instead of worrying about how to get tested without being vaccinated,” she said in a statement.

Villanueva has made dramatic claims that the mandate would trigger a mass exodus of workers. Earlier this month, about 53% of the sheriff’s department’s 16,070 employees, both sworn and civilian, had received at least one dose of the vaccine.

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