Finding a reliable COVID-19 test in Evanston has grown increasingly difficult amid the omicron surge. (Photo by Heidi Randhava)

For over a week in December during the current surge of COVID-19 cases in Evanston, an unapproved testing site operated in an empty storefront at the corner of Church Street and Maple Avenue, according to residents who were tested at the center. 

Marisa Naujokas, an Evanston local who went to the site to get tested when she had a mildly stuffy nose just before Christmas, said she and several friends received positive PCR results from the site, only to test negative at a different testing center just days later. She decided to get tested a second time at a different location because “the report looked a little funky,” with the text below her positive result actually including the typical description for a negative test.

At that point, Naujokas called Evanston 311 and provided information about the testing site. Within the day, the local Health and Human Services Department had sent a cease and desist letter to the testing center. 

“It is standard procedure for COVID-19 testing sites to receive approval from the Evanston Zoning Division and the Health and Human Services Department,” HHS Director Ike Ogbo told the RoundTable. “When it was brought to our attention that there is a site operating without the knowledge of HHS, a letter was prepared to enlighten the owners of the site that approval is needed prior to operating.”

With cases and hospitalizations hitting record highs in Evanston, residents are struggling to find reliable tests that deliver efficient results. The few available Abbott BinaxNOW at-home rapid tests are flying off the shelves of drug stores like CVS and Walgreens when people are fortunate enough to find them, and NorthShore University Healthsystem is only offering tests to symptomatic individuals amid the current surge. 

Combined with supply issues, unapproved pop-up testing sites operated by individuals and companies have also cropped up across the Chicago area, and many have offered inaccurate results or results that never even arrived, as Block Club Chicago reported last week. Residents have reported long lines, unsanitary conditions and poor management at many of these locations. 

In the case of the Evanston pop-up testing center at Church and Maple, a company called South Chicago Lab opened and ran the site, but its listed phone number goes directly to a full voice mailbox.

When the RoundTable contacted the email address on its website, a spokesperson for the company said the testing center was open for less than two weeks, and the lab shut down the location after receiving reports of false positive results. The Evanston testing site was “also unstaffed and we couldn’t let them operate,” he said.

These testing issues have also added to the anxieties and concerns of residents amid the already heightened stress of the omicron wave, and residents rely on accurate test results to go about their daily lives, Naujokas said. 

“I did quarantine as a consequence of the positive test, which took me out of family situations for Christmas Eve, and so then I was thinking afterwards that if someone’s handing out false positives, that upsets people’s lives,” she said. “And there may be people who stay home from work and lose money.”

More formal stamps of approval for testing sites, like signs in the window stating something like “Certified by Evanston Health and Human Services,” would increase confidence in the legitimate testing centers, Naujokas added. 

Local residents can check the addresses and names of approved testing sites in the area under the testing tab on this webpage from the city.

If you have experienced troublesome procedures or test results at other testing facilities in Evanston, please let us know at

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Duncan Agnew

Duncan Agnew covers Evanston public schools, affordable housing, City Hall and more for the RoundTable. He also writes long-form investigations, features and the morning email newsletter three times a...

One reply on “Evanston shuts down unapproved COVID-19 testing center”

  1. I went to the testing site that open in the Valli parking area last Thursday they ask for copy of insurance card and took copy of my driver’s license I have yet to get a result. On Sunday my 9 year and I went to the facility on Harrison and Gross Point at the drive through they were charging $150.00 for same day result,$100.00 for next day result or if u want free results will take 3 to 4 days as of today no results.

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