LOWVILLE — Another set of negative test results for four nursing home staff members who tested positive for the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, does not create a firm negative diagnosis, health officials said.
The results from the second round of tests processed by the Lewis County Health Center’s “reference lab,” LabCorp. for four employees of the county Residential Healthcare Facility came back negative on Monday evening. The same four people tested positive with the same lab on Thursday and had additional samples processed at the Samaritan Medical Center lab on Sunday which also garnered negative results.
Even with two of the three tests indicating the staff members aren’t likely to have the virus, they are still required to remain in isolation for 14 days as would any other person who tests positive for the virus but has no symptoms.
Director of Public Health Ashley Waite said all of the testing information was given to the state Department of Health for analysis and is awaiting further review.
“We have to follow Department of Health guidance. We have ran this up through their epidemiology department and there is nothing to say that definitively, those individuals were absolutely not positive,” Mrs. Waite said, “So erring on the side of caution we must isolate and quarantine appropriately until we’re told otherwise.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “Fact Sheet for Patients” issued on March 15, “There is a very small chance that this test can give a positive result that is wrong (a false positive result)” and “it is possible for this test to give a negative result that is incorrect (false negative) in some people with COVID-19. This means that you could possibly still have COVID-19 even though the test is negative.”
The determination by the Department of Health to require the employees stay in isolation for 14 days, however, has staffing ramifications for the nursing home, according to Health System Chief Executive Officer Gerald Cayer.
“I continue to work through and with the bureaucracy to recognize the two negative test results for the four Residential Health Care Facility employees which should permit these team members to come back to work,” Mr. Cayer said.
In a news conference on Saturday, Mr. Cayer said, “When you do these tests they are in a point in time. You could have been exposed but then, depending on where you are in the incubation period it may not (show) in testing,” but because the individuals had been tested and been found not to have the virus twice before that Thursday test, the positive diagnosis didn’t make sense to Mr. Cayer. He then requested the two additional tests from two different labs.
Contact tracing was already completed for the staff members, Mrs. Waite said, and people identified through that process will remain in quarantine for 14 days.