SANTA CLARITA, Calif. - California leaders report "significant deficiencies" initially at PerkinElmer’s COVID-19 testing lab in Valencia, but they are confident that early mistakes are being corrected.
"We knew there would be growing pains," Dr. Mark Ghaly told FOX 11 News. He serves as Secretary of Health and Human Services in Governor Gavin Newsom’s administration.
Both Gov. Newsom and Sec. Ghaly were on hand in October 2020 for the highly publicized launch of the Santa Clarita Valley facility.
At the time, Gov. Newsom promised it would increase the state’s testing capacity by at least 75 percent.
Dr. Ghaly said the lab has performed tests on samples from more than 1.1 million Californians.
It came under scrutiny after an investigation by reporter Julie Watts for CBS 13 in Sacramento quoted various whistleblowers about problems at the lab. They alleged thousands of "inconclusive" and aired videos purporting to show employees sleeping on the job.
Dr. Ghaly told FOX 11, "If any of this is happening, we need to correct it right away."
California’s Health and Human Services Agency said, "Out of 1.5 million tests, the Valencia Branch Laboratory has issued corrected reports for approximately 60 (.0039%) samples and been unable to test approximately 250 samples (.017%) due to lab errors."
"These worries and concerns we take seriously. We know a single inaccurate test, telling someone they are negative when they are positive, could be very concerning not just to their family and their community," Dr. Ghaly added. "Some of those very small number were not able to be processed and those individuals were notified to get re-testing as appropriate."
The state is in the midst of an investigation into PerkinElmer, but Dr. Ghaly said "nothing major has come back yet."
PerkinElmer denied FOX 11's request for an interview but sent us a statement from president and CEO Prahlad Singh stating, "PerkinElmer remains confident in our continued positive impact, operating the highest quality laboratory to serve California residents."
Dr. Ghaly said California will continue to honor its contract with PerkinElmer and he expects the lab to remain open.
"We are going to continue to work and make it as great as it can be and building upon some of its successes already, nothing is without areas of improvement and continued areas that need to be looked at and addressed but yes, absolutely we are working to make sure this lab does everything we committed it would do," he said.