Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva is not going to use the county’s coronavirus testing provider for his department because of concerns about the company’s alleged ties to the Chinese government, the Los Angeles Times reported on Monday.
Villanueva sent a letter to the county Board of Supervisors stating the FBI contacted him last week and, during a briefing the day after Thanksgiving, relayed “the serious risks associated with allowing Fulgent to conduct COVID-19 testing” of county employees, the Times reported.
The FBI advised Villanueva the information is likely to be shared with China, according to the Times report, and the sheriff said that the DNA data obtained are “not guaranteed to be safe and secure from foreign governments.” An FBI spokesperson declined to comment when asked by the Times to confirm what was discussed at the meeting. The Times reported that L.A. County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl was invited to the briefing by text, but she could not attend because she was out of town for Thanksgiving.
“From what I heard about the briefing, there was no evidence at all, zero, that Fulgent had breached anything or had any relationship with the Chinese government that was harmful to the information that might be present in the samples that they’re testing,” Kuehl told the Times.
The county’s contract with Fulgent prohibits the disclosure of data without the county’s written permission and requires the company store and process data in the continental United States, the county said in a statement released Monday.
A number of federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, contract with Fulgent, which is certified with the Food and Drug Administration, accredited by the College of American Pathologists and licensed by the California Department of Public Health, the Times reported according to a statement from the county. The company is based in Temple City.
“If a credible threat is confirmed, or if the federal government takes any steps to rescind its certification, we will take immediate action to ensure no employee data is misused,” the county statement said.
County employees are required to register their vaccination status with Fulgent. Those who are not vaccinated are required to submit regular test results.