LA Sheriff Fears Chinese Government Could Collect His Deputies’ DNA
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva has severed ties with the county’s coronavirus testing provider citing concerns about its alleged links to the Chinese government. In a letter to supervisors, Villanueva said “the DNA data obtained is not guaranteed to be safe and secure from foreign governments and ‘will likely be shared with the Republic of China.’”
It’s a wild allegation. But it’s one Villanueva swears was raised by the feds. He says the FBI held a briefing with him the day after Thanksgiving to relay “the serious risks” of allowing the company, Fulgent Genetics, to conduct COVID-19 testing of county employees. According to Villanueva, the county’s top attorney and chief executive were in attendance. The Assn. for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs wants supervisors to hold a meeting to discuss the matter.
The FBI refuses to comment. The county issued this statement in response:
“Los Angeles County’s contract for employee COVID-19 testing prohibits any disclosure of data collected without the County’s express written permission, and requires the company to store and process County data/information only within the continental United States. The company selected by the County is certified by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, accredited by the College of American Pathologists, and licensed by the California Department of Public Health and has contracts to perform COVID-19 testing for several federal agencies (FEMA, CDC, Dept. of Homeland Security), states (Utah, Colorado, Missouri, Wisconsin), counties (Orange, San Bernardino, Fresno, Santa Clara, Alameda, Napa), school districts, cities, and large private companies.
“As part of our ongoing commitment to safeguarding our employees’ testing data, the County continually assesses any credible concerns that may emerge, in consultation with our partners in the federal government, to ensure that the terms of our testing contract are stringently followed. 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.”
Supervisor Sheila Kuehl gave a little more information. However, she wasn’t actually at the meeting.
“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 said.
Supervisor Hilda Solis also denied there has been any indication of compromised employee data.
Fulgent’s chief commercial officer, Brandon Perthuis, has dismissed Villanueva’s statements. He says Fulgent is an American company and does not share any data with foreign governments. Testing samples are destroyed after 48 hours, he added.
Fulgent is certified by the FDA. The company also contracts with the Department of Homeland Security. Nevertheless, the Sheriff’s Department will now use its own vaccination registration system and work with companies other than Fulgent for weekly testing.