LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department will no longer use the COVID-19 testing provider Fulgent over its purported ties to the Chinese government, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday.
L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva told the L.A. County Board of Supervisors in a letter that he was briefed by the FBI about “”the serious risks associated with allowing Fulgent to conduct COVID-19 testing,” the Times reported.
Villanueva told the board that he was briefed by the FBI on Friday.
He claimed in the letter that the FBI advised him that information is likely to be shared with China, and that the FBI told him DNA data obtained is “not guaranteed to be safe and secure from foreign governments.”
An FBI spokesperson declined to comment to the Times about the meeting.
According to the Times, L.A. County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl was invited to the briefing, but did not attend because she was out of town for Thanksgiving. Kuehl, however, countered Villanueva’s allegations.
“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,” she 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, L.A. 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 L.A. County. The company is based in Temple City.
County employees are required to register their vaccination status with Fulgent. Those who are not vaccinated are required to submit regular test results.
Back in August, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors ratified an emergency order mandating that all county employees provide proof of full vaccination for COVID-19 or risk losing their jobs. The order took effect Oct. 1. However, Villanueva has said he will not enforce the mandate on his deputies, fearing that he could lose a huge portion of his department.
The order has prompted nearly 600 L.A. County firefighters and other county employees to sign onto a lawsuit seeking to halt the mandate.
(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)