SARASOTA, Fla. -- An I-Team investigation is raising questions about whether one of the nation’s top COVID-19 testing labs could be putting its own workers at risk, by using a hand sanitizer flagged by the federal government for false claims its products protect against coronavirus.
The public relies on Quest Diagnostics to keep its workforce healthy to be able to process a heavy load of COVID-19 tests - more than six million nationwide so far.
But I-Team Investigator Kylie McGivern found Quest labs have been using alcohol-free hand sanitizer not recommended by the CDC.
That alcohol-free hand sanitizer, made by Durisan in Sarasota, received a lot of publicity after a plug from Governor Ron DeSantis in March.
“I think because these aren't what people look for and so Amazon was able to deliver these. So Durisan -- I don't know where it comes from -- but it's pretty good stuff,” said Gov. DeSantis.
The CDC recommends hand sanitizers with at least 60 percent alcohol to be effective against coronavirus. But Durisan’s hands sanitizer is made with no alcohol.
In an email, a spokesperson for Quest Diagnostics told the I-Team, “Quest has used a variety of hand sanitizers in its more than 2,000 facilities including, at times and in some locations, sanitizers manufactured by Durisan. As supplies of alcohol based hand sanitizers have become more available in recent weeks, Quest is transitioning to alcohol based sanitizers at all of its facilities.”
The I-Team asked Quest for an interview to share what lab locations use Durisan’s hand sanitizer but have yet to receive an answer.
Instead, Quest’s spokesperson provided the following email statement:
“When the COVID-19 crisis emerged in the United States, supplies of many materials were under considerable constraint, and that includes alcohol-based hand sanitizers. These sanitizers are more available now and we are swapping them out for any non-alcohol sanitizer that may still be in place in our network. That process is nearly complete. Moreover, we have taken several measures to protect our phlebotomists and patients in these centers, from providing our staff with face masks, face shields, gowns and gloves; requiring all visitors to social distance and wear a face covering; to temperature checks, designating special hours for high-risk individuals and initiating a program allowing patients to receive a text message when they are ready to be seen rather than wait inside our patient service centers. The CDC recommends hand washing over reliance on alcohol-based hand sanitizers, and we have trained our phlebotomists in the value of frequent hand washing. We are confident that these measures are fostering safer environments to help patients receive the testing they need.”
The federal government started looking into Durisan two days after the I-Team’s April investigation into the company, issuing a warning letter to the company in May for falsely claiming its products protect against coronavirus.
According to the FDA’s website, Durisan’s hand sanitizer products “are no longer sold for the prevention, treatment, mitigation, diagnosis or cure of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).”
The company told the I-Team in an email, “At Durisan, we are working very hard during these unprecedented times to have complete compliance with the FDA and have received corrective status. We truly believe in our employees and customers as we continue to produce products that help keep you healthy and safe."