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Village COVID-19 Case Shows Conflicting Results After Additional Testing

Image of coronavirus particles

One of the previously confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Bering Strait region now shows conflicting negative results. But local health officials are hesitating to call the initial test a “false positive”.

The first positive test originally came from one of the region’s village clinics but was tested at the hospital in Nome. The Norton Sound Health Corporation (NSHC) announced this in a press release on Saturday (06/20). The initial positive test was announced on June 12th and the corporation is saying that just hours later, the same patient received a second test using the same analyzer and the test returned negative.

Because of the conflicting results, the patient took another test on the same day that was then sent to the State of Alaska Laboratory. NSHC wrote that results for that test came back negative on June 20th.

Although the patient tested negative for the virus twice after the initial test, NSHC Public Relations Director says they are not calling it a “false positive”

“False positives are much more rare than false negatives and it would take some very specific evidence to prove that the initial test was not the correct test.”

Lean was not immediately able to confirm what that specific evidence would be and representatives from the State Department of Epidemiology did not return KNOM’s requests before the publication of this story.

NSHC says they took the initial positive result seriously as per state recommendations and had the patient isolate while Public Health Nursing began contact tracing. The press release says that a rapid response team was sent to the patient’s community and that as of last week, nearly 40% of the community has been tested. There have been no additional positive cases reported as a result of that testing, although they write that testing continues.

NSHC Medical Director Dr. Mark Peterson told local leaders in a conference call on Monday that the test is, “… Highly suggestive of a false positive, however, we have to take a positive as a positive. The risk is too high if we don’t.”

NSHC is reporting that original patient to be fully recovered as per CDC guidelines, since they completed two negative tests 24 hours apart.

The test from June 12th is the only case in the Bering Strait region to be reported from outside of Nome. NSHC and the state of Alaska have not announced the community over privacy concerns. NSHC is reporting one active case in the region and says they will continue to treat all positive tests on their analyzers as true positives.

KNOM did refer to the case as a “false positive” in previous airings of this story.

Image at top: Particles from the coronavirus. Photo in the public domain via Creative Commons.

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We acknowledge that KNOM Radio Mission is located on the customary lands of Indigenous peoples. 

Based in the Bering Strait region, KNOM broadcasts throughout the homelands of the Iñupiaq, Siberian Yup’ik, Cup’ik and Yup’ik peoples.

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