Testing mixup results in false positives for Taos County

May 29 positives revised from 17 to 6

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A spike in new cases of the coronavirus reported on Friday (May 29) by Holy Cross Medical Center has been revised after a testing error was recognized at LabCorp, one of three facilities that has accepted thousands of samples from throughout the state since the pandemic began.

Of the 13 positive results the hospital's chief executive officer Bill Patten announced on Friday – and four additional positives he said the hospital was notified of that evening but did not announce – 10 retested negative, he said on Monday (June 1).

While one of the 17 samples in the batch remains in question, Patten revised the count of new cases to six on Monday, matching reporting from the New Mexico Department of Health.

Four of the six people who tested positive "had direct extended exposure to a known positive (person)," he added. The hospital plans to release demographic information about the patients on Tuesday (June 2).

Patten said the Taos County samples were on a single testing plate with 384 specimens. When an initial test produced an unusually high number of positive results, a LabCorp employee tested them a second time, but mistakenly reported the first test results to the hospital instead. The hospital then relayed the faulty results to the patients.

"The actual results from the second run showed that there in fact had been a contamination issue and most of the results were actually negative," Patten wrote in an email update Monday.

A third test was conducted on Saturday, confirming that the first test had resulted in the false positives.

Patten said LabCorp is taking full responsibility for the error and would be issuing an apology to the patients who received the false positives last week.

To date, the state has the total number of tests conducted in Taos County at 3,173. Total positives are now at 29 after the additional six were reported on Monday. Holy Cross has taken and submitted 1,737 tests and received 1,463 results, but is deferring to the state regarding other total number of infections.

Patten said the hospital plans to host another remote forum to be broadcast on social media channels on Thursday (June 4) with other officials from around Taos County. A time has yet to be announced.

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