The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s department has announced that it will stop using the county’s COVID-19 testing provider after concerns arose that the company might transfer DNA data to the Chinese regime. The county is using Fulgent Genetics Corp as its COVID-19 testing provider.
In a letter written to the County Board of Supervisors on Nov. 29, Sheriff Alex Villanueva revealed that he was informed at an FBI briefing about the “serious risks” involved in using the testing services of Fulgent. Villanueva writes that he was “shocked” to learn the company has ties with Huawei, WuXP, and BGI, all of which have close ties with China’s State Council and the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences that is under the control of the Chinese Communist Party.
“I was even more shocked to learn Fulgent made no attempt to disguise the fact they will use the genetic information obtained in future studies. I am deeply concerned as to the vetting process which either failed to discover this, or discovered it but chose to ignore it,” Villanueva said in the letter.
According to the county’s testing rules, employees must register their vaccination status with Fulgent. The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Professional Association, which represents 1,850 members, had earlier filed a lawsuit against the county’s registration mandate. It argued that employees are being forced to hand over confidential personal and medical data.
Villanueva added that granting Fulgent a non-bid contract and allowing the firm to have DNA data from test samples has “shattered” the confidence his personnel has in the testing process. The department now intends to work with vetted testing companies that do not have any association with Fulgent and plans on using its own registration system.
Fulgent has dismissed the Sheriff’s concerns. Chief Commercial Officer Brandon Perthuis stated that the company is based in the United States and is founded and led by American citizens. He said Fulgent does not share any private data with the Chinese regime nor does it use test samples to sequence people’s DNA. Perthuis added that all testing samples are destroyed after 48 hours of collection through incineration.
Los Angeles County said that its contract with Fulgent mandates all collected data to be stored and shared within the boundaries of the continental United States. The company is prohibited from disclosing data without first gaining written approval from the county.
“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 said in a statement.
Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs has called on the Board of Supervisors and Villanueva to soon meet and discuss the issue of securing employees’ private data.