• Hunter Cresswell

COVID test reporting error sends 23 kids home

Parent sent child to school after initial negative test result

Contradictory COVID-19 test result reporting led to Quebec Public Health and Wakefield Elementary School asking a classroom of 23 second graders and associated staff to stay home through Oct. 20.

A Wakefield Elementary School second grader received a positive test result for COVID-19 on Oct. 6, the day after getting a contradictory negative test result from CISSSO. The school was forced to send the student and at least 22 classmates and associated staff home through Oct. 20. Low Down file photo

The mother of a Wakefield Elementary School second grader, who spoke to this newspaper on condition of anonymity, said she did everything she was supposed to.

Her child came down with what was thought to be a normal seasonal head cold on Sept. 30 and kept home from school. The child still showed symptoms while being kept at home the next day, so they went to the Wakefield Hospital and got a COVID-19 test.

The child didn’t go to school from Oct. 2 to Oct. 5, while they awaited their test results.

On the morning of Oct. 5, the mother received an email from CISSSO that named her child in the subject line saying they had tested negative for COVID-19.

The mother said she breathed a sigh of relief and sent her child, who stopped appearing sick on Oct. 3, back to school on Oct. 6. She got a phone call that day, while her child was already at school, from CISSSO saying they had her child’s test results. The mother mentioned that she already had the negative results emailed to her, when she was told her child had in fact tested positive for COVID-19.

“My husband had to rush off to pull the child and their siblings in different grades out of school,” the mother said, during an Oct. 9 phone interview. They also pulled one sibling from an area daycare.

Wakefield Elementary School emailed parents about the confirmed case at the school in an email on the evening of Oct. 6.

“Parents will be contacted directly by Santé Publique if their child has had contact and needs to self-isolate for the 14-day period,” an email, addressed from principal Julie Fram-Greig, stated.

Parents whose children came into contact with the COVID-19 positive student were sent a follow-up letter from Public Health instructing them to keep their kid at home and an eye out for signs of infection through Oct. 20. It also recommends testing children.

The mother quickly followed-up with CISSSO about the contradictory test results. She said she wondered how this could have happened?

Human error, she was told after calling CISSSO.

“Public Health, although there was a mistake, has been super helpful throughout this whole thing. I hold the system that has one poor person overworked at fault, not any individual person,” the mother said.

She agreed that describing her family’s week as “stressful” is putting it lightly. Now she, her husband, and her children are quarantined until Oct. 24.

This is the second test result reporting mix-up this newspaper is aware of so far.

In August, the Clinique Vétérinaire de la Gatineau closed its Chelsea location for three days after CISSSO told an employee they had tested positive for COVID-19. Just two days after closing the clinic, CISSSO informed the employee that the positive result was an error.

That’s two known reporting errors out of the 18 reported cases, as of Oct. 12, in the municipalities of Chelsea and La Pêche.

When asked about the case of the Wakefield Elementary School student’s results, CISSSO spokesperson Marie-Pier Després wrote in an email that people who test positive are contacted by phone and people who test negative are emailed.

“Was this an error at the laboratory or was this an error in CISSSO's test result reporting system? If not, what happened?” this reporter asked in an email.

“I am told that it happened very rarely that people have received two opposite results and when it did, there were only a few hours between the arrival of the erroneous negative email and the call from Public Health. We are tightening our procedures each time to prevent this from happening again,” Després wrote, saying she would look into the situation.

No further information was provided before the publishing deadline.

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