Invalid COVID-19 positives confirmed in Centre County

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UPDATE 7/29: A number of COVID-19 test results in Centre County over the weekend have been determined to be invalid, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

The exact number on how many cases were invalid is not yet confirmed. However, the DOH confirmed that there were invalid positive test results. On Sunday, 43 cases were reported in Centre County.

The DOH said that they are reviewing the tests, retesting and will change their data as needed to reflect the results in the next few days.

Mount Nittany Health immediately alerted the DOH after receiving an usually high number of positive results on July 24 and implemented a plan to quickly re-test the individuals over the weekend, according to Nirmal Joshi, MD, chief medical officer of Mount Nittany Health.

“We use multiple commercial labs to conduct COVID-19 tests, and we closely monitor and review the results that are returned to us,” Dr. Joshi said. “On retesting, the Department of Health has determined that a number of the original test results are not valid.”

Dr. Joshi said that the tests are being reviewed and data will be updated by the Pennsylvania Department of Health. He also said that patients are being contacted with their updated test results.

“Based on the volume of test results we have received to date, this was clearly an unusual pattern that prompted further follow up and investigation and we appreciate the collaboration with the Department of Health,” Dr. Joshi said.

The original story can be found below.

CENTRE COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ)– Sunday, Central Pennsylvania saw its largest single-day spike in Covid-19 cases.

70 confirmed cases were reported throughout WTAJ’s viewing area. More than half of these cases, 43, were reported in Centre County.

That’s nearly quadruple the county’s previous record for Covid-19 cases in a day (11).

“Seeing 43 cases in one day was very disconcerting,” said Michael Pipe, Chair of the Centre County Commissioners.

Fellow Commissioner Mark Higgins agreed.

“I’m just really hoping that this is an anomaly of one kind or another… nobody likes to see case counts like that for a single day for a medium-sized county,” Higgins said.

Monday, WTAJ investigated to see if there’s a reason behind this increase.

Two differing reasons emerged:

  • The case surge was due to community spread (the rationale given by the PA Dept. of Health)
  • The case surge was a result of false positive tests at the lab

As seen above, the PA DOH told WTAJ Centre County’s spike in cases was not due to a delay in reports or data dumps, it was also not a result of nursing home testing.

The DOH added that the case surge was not a result of an isolated incident, but instead is “part of community spread.”

“We’re still waiting for the Department of Health to give us some answers,” Pipe said Monday.

He said the county is still standing-by to learn where these cases occurred.

One thing Pipe could confirm is the hospital who’s patients received a majority of the positive test results.

“My understanding is that out of that the 43 positive results, 39 of those individuals were [patients at] Mount Nittany Health and four were not tested through Mount Nittany,” Pipe said.

He added: “The general understanding is that they got a batch of results Friday… and it had a very high positivity rate–so they reached out and said should we re-test. So they’ve made the decision to re-test people who tested positive.”

Pipe said the re-testing is being done to ensure there were not false-positive results from Quest Diagnostics— the lab in PA that does Covid-19 testing.

With the re-tests being completed, Pipe said he now wonders if some patients who were positive for Covid-19 may now test negative… having recovered from the virus.

“The next story’s gonna be when Mount Nittany releases the results of the second round,” he said.

Monday morning WTAJ reached out to Mount Nittany Health for further comment on the reported spike in Covid-19 cases and re-testing efforts. As of Monday evening, the station did not receive a response.

The station also asked Quest Diagnostics about the possibility of false-positive test results Monday and did not receive a response.

Until the re-testing is complete, county officials said the reason behind Sunday’s case surge is undetermined.

Monday, the PA DOH reported one new coronavirus case for Centre County.

More info is in the video below:

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