State Public Health Lab discovers false-positive COVID-19 test results

Coronavirus

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Connecticut’s State Public Health Laboratory has discovered false-positive COVID-19 test results.

On Monday, the Department of Public Health (DPH) says that they have uncovered a flaw in one of the testing systems it uses to test for SARS-CoV-2, which is the virus that causes coronavirus.

The flaw led to 90 of 144 people tested between June 15- July 17 to receive a false positive COVID test report.

DPH officials say that the false-positive test results were discovered by scientists “during an examination of previously positive samples to determine the feasibility of testing ‘pooled’ specimens at the state lab.”

The error has been reported to both the manufacturer and the federal Food and Drug Administration. The DPH is also making sure the patients are immediately notified.

Officials say that the test results were from a widely-used laboratory testing platform that the state lab started using on June 15.

“We have notified the healthcare facilities for everyone who received a false-positive test result from our state laboratory,” said Acting Commissioner Deidre S. Gifford, MD, MPH. “Accurate and timely testing for the novel coronavirus is one of the pillars supporting an effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks to the quick action of our team at the state lab, adjustments have already been made to ensure the accuracy of future test results from this platform.”

The exact cause of the false-positive results is still under investigation.

Many of the false-positive results were among nursing home residents. The DPH says those residents will be tested again as soon as possible.

In a press conference Monday, Governor Ned Lamont said of the discovery, “The good news for us is we caught it. We had people take a second test…That was very important in terms of tracking and now be able to get those people properly tested and taken care of.”

Gifford added, “Everyone who has had one of these 90 false-positive results, their clinician has been notified. Anyone else who has not heard from a clinician should assume that their test result is accurate.”

The overall COVID-19 case numbers for Connecticut will now be adjusted downward because of these false positive tests if the re-testing still shows the impacted individuals to be negative.

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