12 people given wrong COVID diagnosis because of DPH system error

Delaware flag on a face mask

12 people who tested positive for COVID-19 were told their tests were negative, the state said.

Twelve Delawareans who tested positive for COVID-19 were told they were negative because of an internal Division of Public Health system error, the state said Friday.

The state released that information in the wake of a dramatic, tearful 45-minute Facebook video by Katie Evans of the Frozen Farmer and Evans Farm in Bridgeville.

She says in the video that after her husband and her daughter had symptoms of the coronavirus that she, her husband, her children and her mom were tested for COVID at the Walgreen’s in Bridgeville. They were told Tuesday they were negative.


But her husband, Kevin, got sicker and asked to go to the hospital Thursday. She asked the hospital to recheck him for COVID, and someone at Beebe Hospital called her back to tell her that her husband did indeed test positive and they could tell by looking at DPH records.

Almost immediately and seemingly random, someone from the state Department of Public Health called to tell her that the COVID tests she and her husband had taken at Walgreens were negative, which stunned Evans.

Evans asked to speak to the caller’s supervisor and got Sate Sen. Brian Pettijohn on the phone, too. The supervisor told her that there had been a mix up and that husband’s results were indeed positive but everyone else in the family was negative.

Posted by Kevin N. Katey Evans on Thursday, July 23, 2020

Evans insisted on getting the original caller back online. Evans says in the video the original caller said she was sorry and that she had interpreted the material wrong. Evans challenged her and said the results were black or white and not open to interpretation.

A few hours later, she got another call from Public Health saying that her daughter was indeed positive.

Evans says in the video she was told 1,000 to 2,000 results in Bridgeville were compromised.

“The information circulating on Facebook is not necessarily accurate,” said Jen Brestel, a DPH spokewoman, in an email Friday morning.


She said in the email that 2,791 samples were collected from Walgreens for processing through the Delaware Public Health Lab in the first week of testing through the drug stores. Brestel never mentioned locations of tests.

“In the process of results delivery, 12 persons who tested positive for COVID-19 were inadvertently given negative results by phone due to an internal DPH system error,” Brestel wrote. “However all correct lab reports were reported into our surveillance system and appropriately included in statewide testing numbers and the contact tracing system.”

The Division of Public Health wants to assure the public that this was not an error that occurred on site at the Walgreens testing sites, Brestel said in the email.


“All individuals involved have already been contacted by DPH, and we apologized for the uncertainty the error has caused,” she said.

All reported results from the Walgreens testing sites were re-reviewed to ensure accuracy, she said.

“No patients who tested negative were given incorrect results,” Brestel said. “The problem was identified and internal system improvements have eliminated the possibility of this recurring. Additionally, DPH continues to work with its vendor to establish automated results delivery.”

Brestel said DPH wanted to remind the public that a negative test is not an exemption from everyday infection prevention steps such as social distancing, use of face coverings, and hand washing.


Efforts to reach Evans this morning were not immediately successful.

Evans said in the video that she has not been back to her stores since her husband and daughter had symptoms and no one there has developed any symptoms.

Evans also said she worries that people who were told they were negative but actually were positive could have been circulating in the community without realizing they were putting other people at risk, and she now worries about the accuracy of the whole testing process.

She posted on Facebook this morning that her husband sounded stronger and was more alert mentally today.

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Betsy Price

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