CHICAGO (CBS) — A COVID-19 test forced one woman into quarantine for weeks, and she lost her job.
But then she learned she never had the virus. The test was wrong.
CBS 2 Investigator Dave Savini reported Wednesday night on false COVID-19 test results and what went wrong. The health care worker, who did not want to be identified, wanted to tell her story to warn others about what happened to her.
“So I had never been around any form of disease that hasn’t had a cure before,” said the woman. “I have been in the medical field for quite some time.”
She worked as a medical receptionist, wore a mask and gloves, and took all the precautions. Then one day, she started to cough and was concerned.
Like scores of other health care workers, she decided to play it safe and get tested for COVID-19.
She went for a free test at the Friend Health Center near 58th Street and Western Avenue in Chicago. Her samples were then shipped to a lab at Lurie Children’s Hospital.
Two days later, she got the result.
“My primary physician called me. He told me I was positive,” she said. “I was in shock.”
She called her family and her employer, and her worries intensified. Images she has seen while working, and all over the news, started to replay repeatedly in her head.
“I thought of the ventilator, and I started to get my affairs in order,” she said. “I thought about the patients in the hospital how they can’t see their loved ones. And I felt I would be one of them, and God knows I’m praying for them.”
She did what she was supposed to do and quarantined, which meant she also stopped going to work.
“I was scared and I stayed in the house,” she said, “and I followed the instructions. You have to stay in quarantine for 14 days.”
Then after 14 days of isolation, she sought her doctor’s approval to return to work. She missed a few more days of work waiting to get cleared.
And then she lost her job.
Then came another bombshell.
She got a letter from the lab at Lurie Children’s Hospital. It said she was never really COVID-19 positive – it was all a big mistake.
The woman read part of the letter: “We have learned that you received a false positive result. You did not have COVID-19.”
The CBS 2 Investigators were told by a hospital official that they noticed an unusual pattern developing. So they retested the samples in question and found there was an equipment problem.
That is when they learned people who were told they were positive for COVID-19 were really negative.
“I was devastated,” said the health care worker about the impact of this bad test.
She says the hospital representative who called her would not tell her exactly how many others also spent weeks in quarantine for no reason.
Lurie Children’s also would not release to CBS 2 the number of false test results, only saying it was several.
“‘We are sorry for the inconvenience,’” the health care worker said as she expressed her frustration that it took a month to get the accurate result. “That’s all, that’s all – like a pat on the hand, ‘We’re sorry.’”
A representative of Lurie Children’s Hospital told the CBS 2 Investigators they reported the false findings to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH).
Our CBS 2 Investigators reached out to the IDPH to find out how many false positives they have received from all labs statewide. The IDPH has not yet responded.