After negative coronavirus test, Delaware man hospitalized — with coronavirus
Twelve people who were tested for COVID-19 at Walgreens in Bridgeville were told they were negative for the disease, when they actually had it.
In an effort to provide testing for more Delawareans, the Division of Public Health partnered with Walgreens to begin offering free drive-thru testing in each county beginning July 16.
According to Walgreens spokesman Phil Caruso, testing is conducted at Walgreens, but the results are sent to a state health lab for processing. In the first week of testing, 2,791 samples were collected.
"In the process of results delivery, 12 persons who tested positive for COVID-19 were inadvertently given negative results by phone due to a system error," said Division of Public Health spokeswoman Jennifer Brestel. "However their correct lab reports were reported into our surveillance system and appropriately included in statewide testing numbers and the contact tracing system."
The division has already contacted the 12 people in question and re-reviewed all reported results from the Walgreens testing sites.
"The problem was identified and internal system improvements have eliminated the possibility of this recurring," Brestel said.
“They were going from a manual system to a paperless system and there were a couple of data points that got mixed up in transition,” said state Sen. Brian Pettyjohn, who was alerted to the problem by constituents. “All the infected individuals have been contacted so people don’t have to wonder.”
On Thursday, Pettyjohn received a call from Bridgeville’s Katey Evans. She is owner of the Shark Tank-featured ice cream startup The Frozen Farmer.
Evans was calling him from the parking lot of Beebe Medical Center in Lewes, where her husband, Kevin Evans, had been admitted in poor condition. Doctors were telling her he had COVID-19, but the Division of Public Health was telling her his test results were negative.
Evans went live on Facebook Thursday evening to share her experience.
“I’ve been up and down on a roller-coaster for the last week,” she said.
Her husband, Kevin, started feeling ill on Monday, July 13. He found two ticks on himself that night, which isn’t an uncommon occurrence for the owner of Evans Farms. The next day, Kevin went to a doctor, who started him on antibiotics to prevent potential Lyme disease.
One of the Evans children started feeling ill on Wednesday, July 15. She had a high fever and pain in her abdomen, leading the Evanses to rush her to the hospital for possible appendicitis. It wasn’t appendicitis, though, and the child was tested for COVID-19.
On Friday, July 17, the hospital told the Evanses their daughter had tested positive.
“It was a call no mom wants to hear. It was scary,” Katey Evans said. “But I was somewhat convinced it was a false positive.”
She wanted to have her daughter retested, so that same day, she and her husband and all three of their children went to the Bridgeville Walgreens to be tested. They were notified Tuesday, July 21, that they were all negative for COVID-19.
Evans informed her staff, staff at the farm and her child care personnel of her daughter’s diagnosis and they were all tested as well. They, too, were all told they did not have the virus.
Around 2 a.m. on Thursday, Kevin Evans woke up vomiting.
“He got really dehydrated … very dizzy. He was in and out of consciousness,” Katey Evans said.
Around 5 a.m., she took the kids to her mom’s so she could take Kevin to the hospital. When she returned, he told her to call 911.
Evans followed her husband’s ambulance to Beebe Medical Center in Lewes. Due to coronavirus protocols, she wasn’t allowed inside and waited worriedly in her car. Over the next few hours, his condition declined.
“I get a call, saying its Beebe and Kevin tested positive [for COVID-19],” Evans said. “I said, ‘How is that possible? I’ve been told by the department of health that the results were negative.’ They said, ‘I’m looking at the results and they’re positive.’”
Remarkably, around the same time, Evans got a call from the Division of Public Health. They were calling with her test results.
“I said, "I already got them Tuesday, but I want to hear them from you today,” Evans said.
The caller again told her her husband’s test results were negative. When Evans got Sen. Pettyjohn on the call, they told him the same thing.
Eventually, the division told Evans her husband’s test was indeed positive and that there had been an error. She was reassured the rest of her family’s tests were correct, but later in the afternoon, received another call informing her one of her daughter’s tests was also positive.
“That’s unacceptable,” Evans said as she fought back tears.
Evans' COVID-positive daughter is asymptomatic at this time. She is being updated on her husband's condition intermittently by Beebe and said she is frightened.
"I want to know how many other places this has happened," she said. "Throughout our state, and our country, for that matter."